The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new beryllium rule went into effect last May.
The final rule aimed to reduce beryllium disease and lung cancer with decreased exposure limits in general industries, shipyards, and construction. The grace period for employers to adjust to the new rule is ending and, starting on May 11, 2018, all employers must be in compliance with the main provisions.
Changes under the new rule:
- Reduced permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium: 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8-hours
- New short-term exposure limit for beryllium: 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period
- Employers are required to: use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure) to limit worker exposure to beryllium; provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high-exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan; and train workers on beryllium hazards.
- Employers are required to offer medical exams to monitor exposed workers. Provides medical removal protection benefits for workers with an identified beryllium-related disease
Employers will have an additional year to install the required changing rooms and showers, and an additional two years to install the required engineering controls. In the next few years, OSHA estimates that this rule will save 90 people per year from beryllium diseases, and also prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium each year.
What is Beryllium?
Beryllium is a grey metal that has been classified as a strategic and critical material by the U.S. Department of Defense. It’s has a great strength-to-weight proportion, high melting point, thermal stability, and is conductive, reflective and transparent to X-rays. This makes it an essential material in industries such as aerospace, defense, medical, telecommunications, information technology, and nuclear industries.
It is used in three forms: pure metal, beryllium oxide, and, most commonly, as an alloy with either copper, metal, aluminum, magnesium, or nickel. Unfortunately, it can be hazardous to anyone who inhales it or contacts it in the air or on surfaces. Overexposure can lead to beryllium disease (CBD), which causes scarring of the lung tissue. Some people may even develop lung cancer.
(Learn more about the health effects of beryllium)
Is Beryllium a Hazard in Your Industry?
OSHA estimates that about 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium each year. Of this number, 11,500 are shipyard and construction workers who may be exposed during abrasive blasting with slags that contain trace amounts of the hazardous metal. That leaves over 50,000 workers that are exposed in “general industry.” General industry refers to the following: Beryllium metal and ceramic production, non-ferrous foundries, and fabrications of beryllium alloy products.
Here is OSHA’s list of all the occupations with potential exposure to beryllium:
- Primary Beryllium Production Workers
- Workers Processing Beryllium Metal/Alloys/Composites
- Foundry Workers
- Furnace Tenders
- Machine Operators
- Metal Fabricators
- Dental Technicians
- Secondary smelting and refining (recycling electronic and computer parts, metals)
- Abrasive Blasters (slags)
It’s important to make sure you are in compliance with OSHA’s new beryllium rule by March 12 to avoid any fines or inspections. Adding medical surveillance to your health & safety program is required to make sure that your employees are healthy and are not facing exposure to any harmful substances. Worksite Medical brings medical surveillance testing to you with our mobile medical units. If you’re near western Pennsylvania or northeastern Maryland, then you can also send your team to one of our workers’ compensation clinics.
We make medical exams easy for you and your employees by conducting them on-site. You won’t have to worry about losing productivity. Give us a call at 1-844-OCCUMED to discuss scheduling an appointment, or email us at info@WorksiteMed.com.