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July 9, 2018

Effective July 6: Changes to OSHA’s beryllium standard for general industry

Washington — OSHA’s “clarifying amendments” to its beryllium standard for general industry will go into effect July 6, the agency has announced.

The changes address the application of the standard “to materials containing trace amounts of beryllium,” OSHA states in a July 2 press release. The agency issued a direct final rule May 7 and said it has received no significant adverse comments.

The direct final rule updates the definitions of the beryllium work area, emergency, skin contact and contamination. The agency states that the direct final rule also intends to clarify provisions for disposal and recycling and in instances of exposure to materials containing “at least 0.1 percent beryllium by weight.”

Thomas Galassi, director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, said in a memo sent June 21 that the agency is enforcing the general industry standard’s provisions for exposure assessment, respiratory protection, medical surveillance and medical removal. All other provisions in the general industry standard will not be enforced until Aug. 9, while all other provisions in the construction and shipyard standards are not under enforcement until “further notice.”

The agency also is enforcing the permissible exposure limits for all three of its beryllium standards, including construction and shipyards. That PEL is 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air – averaged over 8 hours – and a short-term exposure limit of 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in electronics and the defense industry, among others. Overexposure can cause serious health risks, including incurable chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

OSHA estimates that 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium every year. The agency has projected that the updated regulations will save 90 lives from beryllium-related disease and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year.

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