On May 7, 2018, OSHA issued the Final Rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in general industry as it applies to processes, operations, or areas where workers may be exposed to materials containing less than 0.1% beryllium by weight. OSHA reports that around 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium on the job. The final rule replaces a 40-year-old permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium that was outdated and did not adequately protect worker health.
Here is everything you need to know about the new regulations:
- OSHA has updated the regulations on beryllium standards in the workplace to better account for the health needs of employees
- Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8 hours.
- Establishes a new short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period.
- Requires employers 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.
- Requires employers to make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.
- Dangers Of Beryllium
The reason behind the implementation of these new regulations is the need to prevent the many health complications, especially chronic beryllium disease (CBD) which occurs as a result of inhaling airborne beryllium.
- Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD), is a chronic inflammatory lung disease caused by inhalation of airborne beryllium by individuals who have been previously sensitized to beryllium.
- Beryllium sensitization can result from inhalation or skin exposure to beryllium dust, fume, mist, or solutions.
- CBD can progress to a chronic obstructive lung disorder, resulting in loss of quality of life and the potential for decreased life expectancy.
- OSHA has determined that occupational exposure to beryllium causes lung cancer in humans.
- OSHA’s rule will go into effect in stages, allowing the affected industries time to make sure they are in compliance with the new regulations. Below is a timeline of the important dates for compliance:
- All three standards contained in the final rule take effect on May 20, 2017
- Employers are required to comply with most of the obligations of the standards by March 12, 2018
- OSHA will begin enforcing certain requirements of the final rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in general industry, construction, and shipyards on May 11, 2018.
- OSHA has also issued a memorandum stating that the ancillary requirements that are affected by this rulemaking will not be enforced until June 25, 2018
- Employers must provide the required change rooms and showers beginning on March 11, 2019
- Employers are required to implement the engineering controls requirement beginning on March 10, 2020
Following the regulations set forth in the Final Rule, industries will see a reduction in new beryllium sensitization cases annually. The new rule lowers the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) and requires that employers use engineering controls – such as ventilation – to reduce workers’ exposure to beryllium. Once the full effects of the rule are realized, OSHA expects it to prevent 94 deaths from beryllium-related diseases and prevent 46 new cases of CBD each year.