Beryllium Federal agencies Workplace exposures Manufacturing

OSHA to extend compliance date for parts of general industry beryllium standard


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UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register.

Washington — OSHA has published a proposed rule intended to give the agency enough time to make alterations to its beryllium standard for general industry.

OSHA states that it will push to Dec. 12 the compliance date for ancillary requirements in the standard that pertain to “all processes, operations or areas where workers may be exposed to materials containing beryllium that fall under the scope of the general industry standard.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking, published in the June 1 Federal Register, is expected to pave the way for another NPRM that “is designed to clarify the standard and to simplify compliance.”

OSHA is issuing the NPRMs as part of its settlement agreement, signed April 24, with the National Association of Manufacturers, AirBorn Inc., Materion Brush Inc. and Mead Metals Inc.

On May 7, OSHA issued a direct final rule as part of its agreement with those petitioners. The direct final rule is intended to “clarify certain definitions and provisions for disposal/recycling, along with those that apply in cases of potential skin exposure to materials containing at least 0.1 percent beryllium by weight.” It is expected to go into effect July 4.

The only ancillary provisions not affected by the June 1 NPRM are those pertaining to change rooms/showers and engineering controls. The first has a compliance date of March 11, 2019; the latter will begin March 10, 2020.

The agency issued another proposed rule in June 2017 that seeks to remove ancillary provisions – such as those addressing housekeeping and personal protective equipment – from the beryllium standard in the construction and shipyard industries. The new permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air would remain in place, as would the short-term exposure limit of 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

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 every year. The agency has projected that the updated regulations will save 90 lives from beryllium-related disease and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year.

Comments on the NPRM are due June 30.

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