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July 6, 2017

OSHA Proposes Update to New Beryllium Rule

On June 23, OSHA announced a new proposed rule on beryllium exposure that would modify the agency’s January 2017 final rule for the construction and shipyard sectors. Further, OSHA said it will not enforce the Jan. 9, 2017, construction and shipyard standards without further notice while determining whether to amend the Jan. 9 rule.

In a news release, OSHA said the new proposal would maintain the requirements for exposure limits (permissible exposure limit of 0.2 µg/m3 and short-term exposure limit of 2.0 µg/m3), but revises the application of provisions such as housekeeping and personal protective equipment. OSHA said it "has evidence that exposure in these industries is limited to a few operations and has information suggesting that requiring the ancillary provisions broadly may not improve worker protection and be redundant with overlapping protections in other standards."

So now OSHA is seeking comment on, among other things, whether existing standards covering abrasive blasting in construction and shipyards, and welding in shipyards provide adequate protection for workers engaged in these operations.

The United Steelworkers (USW) oppose the proposal to cancel protections for shipyard and construction workers exposed to beryllium. According to the USW, under the new proposal released by OSHA, “employers would no longer have to measure beryllium levels in the workplace or provide medical testing to workers at risk of fatal lung disease. In addition, workers would not have the right to wear protective clothing or to shower at the end of the work shift, making it possible for beryllium to be taken home and exposed to spouses and children.”

A recent article in EHS Today covers the proposed roll-backs, with comments from a variety of stakeholders.

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