OSHA Clarifies New Beryllium Exposure Standard with Direct Final Rule

Posted on 5/7/2018 by Roger Marks and James Griffin, CDGP

beryllium_exposure_worker.jpgOSHA published a Direct Final Rule in the Federal Register on May 7, 2018 to make clarifying amendments to its new beryllium exposure worker protections finalized in January 2017.

The January 2017 Final Rule lowered the permissible exposure limit, or PEL, for beryllium and beryllium compounds and added “ancillary provisions” to address exposure assessments, control methods, respiratory protection and PPE, employee training, medical surveillance, and hazard communication.

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The May 7 Direct Final Rule is intended to better focus the rulemaking toward facilities in which employees face the highest risk of exposure to beryllium.

What Changed in OSHA’s Beryllium Standard?

After OSHA finalized the beryllium Standard in January 2017, stakeholders expressed concern that requirements to prevent dermal contact with trace amounts of beryllium were unintentionally burdensome. This Direct Final Rule updates definitions to clarify the intent of OSHA’s January 2017 beryllium Final Rule and limit the requirements for control of dermal exposure in general industry.

What Stayed the Same in OSHA’s Beryllium Standard?

While the Direct Final Rule makes some adjustments to OSHA’s new beryllium Standard, the bulk of the new requirements remain in place, including: 
  • Lowered permissible exposure limits from the January 2017 Final Rule.
  • OSHA’s focus on both inhalation and dermal routes of exposure.
  • Employers’ duty to use full spectrum of controls to limit employee exposure to beryllium.

Amended Definitions of “Beryllium Work Area” and Other Terms

The May 7 Direct Final Rule amends the definition of a “beryllium work area” to read

Any work area “(1) Containing a process or operation that can release beryllium and that involves materials that contain at least 0.1% beryllium by weight; and

(2) Where employees are, or can reasonably expected to be, exposed to airborne beryllium at any level or where there is a potential for dermal contact with beryllium."

In addition to re-defining “beryllium work area,” the May 7 Direct Final Rule adds or updates regulatory definitions for “emergency,” “dermal contact,” and “beryllium contamination” as they apply to general industry facilities covered by the rulemaking. 

The Direct Final Rule will take effect on July 6, 2018, unless OSHA receives significant adverse comment.

See the full text of OSHA’s Beryllium Direct Final Rule here.

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, worker safety

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