OSHA’s Plans to Modify Beryllium Standards

OSHA’s fall 2017 regulatory agenda projects that the agency will finalize a rule modifying standards for occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds in construction and shipyards by September 2018. The affected standards were published as part of a final beryllium rule on Jan. 9, 2017.

OSHA is proposing to revoke ancillary provisions such as housekeeping and personal protective equipment for the construction and shipyard industries. An OSHA news release from June 2017 describes the ancillary provisions as “limited to a few operations” within the construction and shipyard industries and potentially “redundant with overlapping protections in other standards.”

OSHA does not intend to change the permissible exposure limit for beryllium of 0.2 μg/m3 averaged over eight hours. The proposal would also maintain the new short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2 μg/m3 over a 15-minute sampling period.

While this new rulemaking is underway, OSHA will not enforce the shipyard and construction standards published on Jan. 9. The general industry standard for beryllium is not affected by the new proposal.

The new regulatory agenda also indicates that MSHA will be conducting a “retrospective study” of its 2014 respirable coal mine dust rule, which lowered the exposure limit in the overall dust standard from 2.0 to 1.5 mg/m3 of air at underground and surface coal mines. The rule also lowered the limit of 1.0 to 0.5 mg/m3 for intake air at underground mines and for miners who show evidence of developing pneumoconiosis.

In addition, mine operators are required to use the continuous personal dust monitor to monitor the exposures of underground coal miners in occupations exposed to the highest respirable coal mine dust concentrations. According to the regulatory agenda, the retrospective study is intended to evaluate “whether the final dust rule is achieving respirable dust levels to protect miners’ health.”

Rulemaking activity that appeared on OSHA’s spring 2016 regulatory agenda, including standards for bloodborne pathogens and combustible dust, does not appear on the agency’s new agenda. OSHA previously indicated that it would issue a request for information to explore the need for a PEL or comprehensive rule for the solvent 1-bromopropane; this RFI is not listed on the current regulatory agenda.