Put Up Your Guard | OSHA Issues Final Rule on Beryllium Exposure

Beryllium is a grey metal that is stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum, which makes it popular and beneficial for use in many workplaces. Products containing beryllium are used a wide variety of industries, including: aerospace; automotive; defense; electronics; energy; telecommunications; and more. Some occupations with potential exposure to beryllium include: machine operators, welders, metal fabricators, machinists, abrasive blasters, as well as many others.

Beryllium exposure can cause adverse health effects, such as chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer, in workers who are exposed through inhalation or air / surface contact. As a result, OSHA has recently replaced a 40-year-old permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium that was not providing adequate protection to workers. The final rule issued by OSHA limits beryllium exposure through standards for general industry, construction, and shipyards.

OSHA estimates 62,000 workers in the U.S. are exposed to beryllium in the workplace. This exposure can also be transferred to workers’ family members through contaminated clothing and vehicles. OSHA projects this final rule will prevent 46 cases of chronic beryllium disease per year and will save 94 lives. The rule includes provisions to:

  • Reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL);
  • Establish a new short term exposure limit;
  • Require employers to:
  • Use engineering and work practice controls to limit exposure;
  • Provide respirators when controls are not adequate;
  • Limit worker access to high-exposure areas;
  • Develop an exposure control plan;
  • Provide training to workers on beryllium hazards;
  • Provide medical exams for exposed workers and medical removal protection benefits to workers with a beryllium-related disease.

The final rule includes three standards which go into effect on March 21, 2017. The three sectors must comply with most of the requirements within one year, but have two years to provide required change rooms and showers. March 2020 is the deadline to implement engineering controls. For additional information, see OSHA’s page: Final Rule to Protect Workers from Beryllium Exposure.

Date Posted: 02-01-2017
Tags: beryllium disease, beryllium exposure, osha safety topics, osha workplace safety,
Categories: OSHA Safety,