Revised OSHA Standard For Beryllium Exposure Take Effect Soon
It’s been 40 years since OSHA established the first Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for beryllium. In the intervening decades, we’ve learned a great deal more about how beryllium exposure affects workers and their health. A new Final Rule regulating workplace exposure in general industry, shipyards, and construction will take effect on May 20, 2017.
What Are The Provisions Of The New Rule?
OSHA has published the complete text of the Final Rule, along with a great deal of supporting documentation on its website, but there are four key areas employers should be immediately aware of, because they are specifically tied to compliance deadlines, after which employers will be subject to penalties for non-compliance.
- Reduced PEL – For an eight-hour shift, the PEL for beryllium will be lowered to an average of 0.2 micrograms per cubic liter of air.
- Short Term Exposure Limit – This new limit requires exposure of no more than 2.0 micrograms of beryllium per cubic liter of air over a 15-minute sample period.
- Engineering & Controls – Employers will be required to implement engineering and procedural controls to limit exposure. They’ll also be required to provide respirators for situations where ventilation, enclosure, or other measures cannot protect employees from unacceptable exposure levels, and to limit access to those areas. Written plans for controlling exposure and training on beryllium hazards and control plans are also required.
- Medical Exams & Monitoring – Employers in all three sectors will be required to provide exposed workers with medical exams and monitoring, and medical removal benefits for employees who are identified as having a beryllium-related illness.
Why Is This Happening?
Although conscientious employers have been taking measures to protect their workers against beryllium exposure for decades, not all employers are conscientious. Additionally, the full impact of beryllium exposure on human health was not known, therefore not taken into account when the older OSHA standard was enacted. Each year, about 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium on the job, which can cause chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer. OSHA estimates that the new rues will save 90 lives each year and prevent an additional 46 cases of chronic beryllium disease every year, once full implementation is in effect, and they project annual net benefits of about $561 million a year.
Is Your Company Ready For Compliance?
Optimum Safety Management specializes in helping companies across a wide variety of industries to plan, prepare, and train for OSHA compliance across the board. We can help your company prepare for these changes by working with you to develop a beryllium exposure control plan, and getting your managers, supervisors, and workers properly trained for best safety and compliance. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you protect your workers and your business.