OSHA Proposes Modifications to Beryllium Standards Rule


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced a proposed rule that would modify the agency’s recent beryllium standards for the construction and shipyard sectors. Representatives of the shipyards and construction industries, as well as members of Congress, raised concerns that they had not had a meaningful opportunity to comment on the application of the rule to their industries when the rule was developed in 2015-16. This proposal provides a new opportunity to comment on the rule for those industries and the public. The new proposal would make changes to the rule only for the shipyard and construction sectors. The general industry standard is unaffected by the proposal.

The proposal for shipyards and construction would maintain the requirements for exposure limits (permissible exposure limit of 0.2 μg/m3 and short-term exposure limit of 2.0 μg/m3), which will continue to protect workers from a serious beryllium-related lung disease known as chronic beryllium disease. The proposal instead revises the application of ancillary provisions such as housekeeping and personal protective equipment in the January 2017 final standards for the construction and shipyard industries. OSHA has evidence that exposure in these industries is limited to a few operations and has information suggesting that requiring the ancillary provisions broadly may not improve worker protection and be redundant with overlapping protections in other standards.

Accordingly, OSHA is seeking comment on, among other things, whether existing standards covering abrasive blasting in construction, abrasive blasting in shipyards, and welding in shipyards provide adequate protection for workers engaged in these operations.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds in Construction and Shipyard Sectors will be published in the Federal Register on June 27, 2017. OSHA encourages the public to participate in this rulemaking by submitting comments during the 60-day comment period. Click here for information on submitting comments on the proposed rule and requesting public hearings.

On Jan. 9, 2017, OSHA issued a final rule that established new protections for workers who are exposed to beryllium in general industry, construction, and shipyards. Beryllium is a lightweight metal used primarily in specialty alloys and beryllium oxide ceramics. It is also present as a trace material in metal slags.

OSHA also announced it will not enforce the Jan. 9, 2017, construction and shipyard standards without further notice while determining whether to amend the Jan. 9, 2017, rule.