Beryllium Federal agencies Construction Workplace exposures Construction

OSHA delays enforcement of beryllium standards

Photo: Hreni/iStockphoto

Washington — OSHA is delaying enforcement on all of its beryllium standards until May 11, the agency has announced.

Thomas Galassi, director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, said in a memo sent March 2 that one reason for postponing the enforcement date by 60 days is to provide more time to finish settlement negotiations on lawsuits involving the beryllium standard for general industry.

The agency also will delay enforcement of the new permissible exposure limit (0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8 hours) and the short-term exposure limit (2 micrograms per cubic meter in a 15-minute sampling period) for the construction and shipyard industries until May so employers have “adequate notice” before OSHA enforcement begins.

“In the interim, if an employer fails to meet the new PEL or STEL, OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance,” Galassi said in the memo.

OSHA’s final rule on beryllium was published Jan. 9, 2017, and initially went into effect May 20 after previous delays. Enforcement on all standards was slated to begin March 12.

President Donald Trump’s administration issued a proposed rule this past June that would remove “ancillary provisions” – such as those addressing housekeeping and personal protective equipment – for the construction and shipyard industries.

Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in electronics and the defense industry, among others. Overexposure can cause serious health risks, including incurable chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

OSHA estimates that 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium, including 11,500 in the construction and shipyard industries. The agency has projected that the updated PEL and STELs will save 90 lives from beryllium-related disease and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year.

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