OSHA Issues Final Rule to Protect Workers from Beryllium Exposure

On January 9, 2017, OSHA released a final rule that lowers occupational exposure limits for beryllium.  The rule contains standards that apply to the general industry, construction and shipyard sectors.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal used in the aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunications, medical and defense industries.  Workplace exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds can result in Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) and lung cancer.  CBD is a pulmonary disease that can cause serious debilitation or death.  Symptoms of CBD can develop very quickly or after months and years following an exposure.  CBD can continue to progress even after a worker is no longer exposed to beryllium.  Lung cancer may result from inhalation of beryllium-containing dust, fumes or mist.  Beryllium is listed as a Group 1 carcinogen and a known human carcinogen.

Compliance Deadlines: 

  • March 10, 2017: All three standards contained in the final rule take effect.
  • March 12, 2018: General Industry, Construction and Shipyard sectors must comply with most of the requirements.
  • March 11, 2019: All sectors must provide required change rooms and showers.
  • March 10, 2020: Engineering controls must be implemented by all sectors.

Key Provisions:

  • The rule reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8 hours.
  • A new short term exposure limit for beryllium is established of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period.
  • Employers are required to: use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure) to limit worker exposure to beryllium; provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high-exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan; and train workers on beryllium hazards.
  • Employers must make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.

According to OSHA, the beryllium rule will affect approximately 62,000 workers.  “OSHA estimates that each year the final rule will save the lives of 94 workers from beryllium related diseases and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease once its full effects are realized.”

Additional Information: 

https://www.osha.gov/berylliumrule/index.html

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3821.pdf

-Information excerpted from https://www.osha.gov/berylliumrule/index.html, “Final Rule to Protect Workers from Beryllium Exposure” and OSHA® FactSheet, “Protecting Workers’ from Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds:  Final Rule Overview.”