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OSHA Now Enforcing Beryllium Worker Protections

Posted on 2/4/2019 by Roger Marks

In January 2017, OSHA finalized new worker protections for employees exposed to beryllium and beryllium compounds. New requirements included lower permissible exposure limits (PELs) and various “ancillary provisions” for employers. 

While the rule is still subject to changes—OSHA posted revisions in May 2018 and December 2018 (see below)—many of the additional requirements for general industry are in effect now.

As of December 12, 2018, OSHA is enforcing the following provisions of the 2017 Final Rule in general industry:
  • Beryllium work areas and regulated areas
  • Written exposure control plans
  • PPE clothing and equipment
  • Hygiene areas and practices
  • Housekeeping
  • Hazard communication
  • Recordkeeping
See OSHA’s updated enforcement guidance here.

December 2018 Proposed Rule

Just before these requirements took effect, on December 10, 2018, OSHA proposed a rule to “simplify and clarify” some provisions of the 2017 Final Rule. Until the changes proposed in December 2018 are made final, OSHA will accept compliance with either the January 2017 Final Rule or the December 2018 proposed rule as compliance with the Standard.

May 2018 Direct Final Rule

In May 2018, OSHA issued a Direct Final Rule to clarify and revise some elements of the beryllium workplace safety standards. Changes in the Direct Final Rule included revising the definition of “beryllium work area” and limiting the requirements for controlling dermal exposure in general industry.

What Is Beryllium and Why Is It Hazardous?

Beryllium (Be) is a periodic element that’s rare in nature. Its light weight and stiffness make it useful in a variety of industries, namely aerospace, nuclear energy, and manufacturing. It’s also frequently found in aluminum, copper, iron, and nickel alloys.

Beryllium is a known carcinogen and can cause chronic and fatal lung diseases, like chronic beryllium disease (berylliosis), pneumonitis, and others. While the former Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for beryllium was already the lowest for any metal, industry groups have long advocated for lowering it by up to 90%, a step OSHA took with its January 2017 Final Rule.

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Tags: beryllium, new rules, osha, safety training, workplace safety

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