• OSHA Beryllium Exposure Rule Revision

OSHA Beryllium Exposure Rule Revision – Weekly Compliance Digest

June 30, 2017 By
In this edition of the Weekly Compliance Digest, we cover proposed changes to OSHA’s beryllium standards for the construction sector and shipyards.

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds in Construction and Shipyard Sectors

What is it?

In January 2017, OSHA issued its long-awaited final rule on beryllium exposure. The finalized beryllium standards were for general industry, construction, and shipyards, and were planned to take effect on March 21, 2017, with a compliance date of March 12, 2018 for most provisions of the rule.

The beryllium final rule was issued by the Obama administration two weeks before President Trump took office. However, the incoming administration delayed the effective date of the rule, from March 21, 2017 to May 20, 2017, to take time to review the rule and determine whether to propose changes. Last week, OSHA announced proposed changes to the Beryllium rule.

Beryllium is a strong and lightweight metal. It is highly toxic when beryllium-containing materials are processed in a way that releases airborne beryllium dust, fume, or mist into the workplace air that can be then inhaled by workers.

Who is affected?

The original beryllium rule applies to general industry, the construction sector, and shipyards. OSHA’s proposed changes apply only to the construction sector and shipyards. The beryllium rule remains unchanged for general industry (see our post on the final rule for more information on the requirements).

Here are more details on the industry sectors and activities affected by the changes to the rule:

  • Construction – Painting and Wall Covering Contractors
    • Abrasive Blasting
  • Construction – All Other Specialty Trade Contractors
    • Abrasive Blasting
  • Ship Building and Repairing
    • Abrasive Blasting
    • Welding

What are the changes?

The proposal for the construction sector and shipyards would maintain the following exposure limits for beryllium:

  • Permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (0.2 μg/m3)
  • Short term exposure limit (STEL) of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air (2.0 μg/m3)

However, OSHA is proposing to remove the following nine ancillary provisions in the new beryllium standards for the construction sector and shipyards:

  • Assess employees’ exposure to airborne beryllium.
  • Establish beryllium regulated areas (and competent persons in construction).
  • Develop a written exposure control plan.
  • Provide personal protective work clothing and equipment.
  • Establish hygiene areas and practices.
  • Implement housekeeping measures.
  • Provide medical surveillance.
  • Provide medical removal for employees who have developed chronic beryllium disease (CBD) or been confirmed positive for beryllium sensitization.
  • Provide appropriate training.

OSHA is also considering extending the compliance dates in the final rule by a year for the construction and shipyard standards. If this is confirmed, the date for compliance with most provisions of the rule would change from March 12, 2018 to March 12, 2019 for the construction sector and shipyards.

What is next?

The proposed changes to the beryllium rule were published on June 27, 2017. A 60-day comment period will end on August 28, 2017. OSHA announced that it will not enforce the standards for the construction sector and shipyards for now, while determining whether to amend the rule. The beryllium rule remains unchanged and in effect for general industry.

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