OSHA Expands Beryllium Rule's Reach to Cover Shipyards, Construction

- According to a January 6 InsideOSHAOnline.com article, “OSHA has issued a final rule strengthening limits for workers' exposure to beryllium and expanding proposed protections for general industry to also cover the shipyard and construction sectors as consumer and health advocates requested, though the final rule also includes a new provision to give employers flexibility in assessing exposures.”

The final rule scheduled for publication in the Federal Register Jan. 9, strengthens the current chronic exposure limit by a factor of 10, which OSHA says is the lowest level that is technologically feasible, the article reports. A landmark collaboration between labor and industry groups recommended that OSHA adopt the limit.

“Outdated exposure limits do not adequately protect workers from beryllium exposure,” OSHA chief David Michaels said in a statement announcing the rule. “OSHA's new standard is based on a strong foundation of science and consensus on the need for action, including peer-reviewed scientific evidence, a model standard developed by industry and labor, current consensus standards and extensive public outreach.”

The article also reported that while “OSHA rules issued in the waning weeks of the Obama administration are widely expected to face pushback from the incoming Trump administration and the Republican-held Congress, Michaels has expressed confidence in the beryllium rule's chances, given extensive input from industry stakeholders and agreement among key players.”

The new rule codifies the agency's August 2015 proposal to strengthen the existing permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 2 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/^m3) calculated on an 8-hour time-weighted average to 0.2 ug/m^3. The rule also adopts a short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2.0 ug/m^3 over a 15-minute sampling period.

The rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Register, and includes staggered compliance dates. Employers will have one year to comply with most provisions, but two years for installing change rooms and showers, and three years for implementing engineering controls.

Read more on the final OSHA rule here.

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