Advocates call for OSHA to strengthen proposed rule on beryllium
Washington – OSHA’s proposed rule on beryllium is “a step in the right direction” but could be stronger, according to a pair of worker safety and health advocates who testified at an informal hearing on the proposal.
In its proposed rule, published Aug. 7, OSHA states that available evidence indicates exposure to the metal can lead to lung cancer or a lung condition called chronic beryllium disease. OSHA estimates its proposed exposure limits would prevent 96 deaths and 50 cases of chronic beryllium disease each year.
During the March 21-22 hearing, Sammy Almashat, a research associate with the Health Research Group of watchdog organization Public Citizen, said OSHA should implement a beryllium exposure limit of 0.1 micrograms per cubic meter of air – not 0.2 micrograms as specified in the proposed rule. Meanwhile, Emily Gardner, of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, called on OSHA to extend the rule so it applies to construction and shipyard workers – many of whom are exposed to beryllium during abrasive blasting operations or open-air blasting.
“Excluding them from the proposed rule would condemn more than 23,000 workers to continued exposure to levels of beryllium that will inevitably result in CBD and lung cancer in many,” Gardner testified. “Public Citizen commends OSHA for its efforts to update badly outdated exposure limits to beryllium. However … the updated standard cannot leave construction and shipyard workers vulnerable to the devastating effects of beryllium.”