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OSHA issues beryllium direct final rule on heels of settlement agreement

Rule takes effect July 4 for general industry employers

Posted May 7, 2018

OSHA issued a direct final rule on May 4 to clarify aspects of the beryllium standard for general industry. The rule applies to processes, operations, or areas where workers may be exposed to materials containing trace amounts of beryllium. The direct final rule will become effective on July 4, 2018, unless OSHA receives negative comments by June 4, 2018.

The new rule finalizes definitions for Beryllium Work Area, emergency, dermal contact, and beryllium contamination. In addition, it addresses the disposal and recycling of beryllium and the provisions OSHA will apply only where skin can be exposed to materials containing at least 0.1 percent beryllium by weight.

The direct final rule comes after OSHA and industry stakeholders reached a settlement agreement in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit. The parties agreed to keep the permissible exposure limit to beryllium of 0.2 μg/ m3 (time-weighted average of eight hours) along with the requirements for engineering controls that go into effect in the next few years. OSHA also agreed to revisit several aspects in the beryllium standard and issue a proposed rule before the end of 2018.

In its January 9, 2017, final rule on Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds, OSHA concluded that employees exposed to the substance at the existing permissible exposure limits were at significant risk of adverse health effects. The final rule created three separate standards – general industry, shipyards, and construction. The agency finalized the eight-hour time-weighted average of 0.2 μg/ m3 and revised the short-term exposure limits to beryllium to 2.0 μg/ m3 over a 15-minute sampling period. OSHA revised to action level to 0.1 μg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA and added many ancillary provisions intended to provide additional protections for employees, such as requirements for measuring exposures, methods for controlling exposures, respiratory protection, personal protecting clothing and equipment, housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping.

Note that OSHA has proposed to remove the ancillary provisions from the beryllium standard as it applies to shipyards and construction.

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