Industry, GOP Push OSHA to Scale Back Beryllium Rule

Rely on Occupational Safety & Health ReporterSM for full news coverage and documentation of federal and state workplace safety and health programs, standards, legislation,...

By Sam Pearson

OSHA should issue an “indefinite delay” of an update to its beryllium standard until it reissues a regulation closer to an earlier version, a key House Republican said this week.

In a letter to the agency March 13, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), the chairman on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, said the agency had erred by issuing standards for construction and shipyards when its 2015 proposed rule applied only to general industry.

The submission came as a public comment period closed March 13 on OSHA’s move to delay the beryllium rule’s effective date from March 21 to May 20. The delay was in accordance with a White House directive to push back regulations due to take effect early in the new president’s term. Delaying the standard further could push back compliance deadlines for companies.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration representatives did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment March 14.

The action “ignored the [Administrative Procedure Act] and rewrote federal law while doing nothing to improve worker health and safety,” Byrne wrote. “Ironically, the agency’s actions put at risk the very jobs and health of those workers it is bound to protect.”

In public comments, Sammy Almashat and Emily Gardner of Public Citizen countered that the postponement was “simply the latest in a 16-year-long series of delays of a rule that the entire scientific community agrees is urgently necessary to save thousands of workers from the risk of needless suffering and death.”

Industry Criticizes Scope

The comments come amid growing criticism from shipyard employers and trade groups, including the Abrasives Blasting Manufacturers Alliance, that the rule may have unintended consequences for their industry.

The ABMA wrote that coal and copper slag abrasives “contain only trace amounts of beryllium” and the regulation could lead to greater use of other materials like silica sand and divert coal slag to landfills.

Jim Frederick, assistant health and safety director for the United Steelworkers union, told Bloomberg BNA March 14 there were “some conversations about some particularly difficult pieces and parts of the rule, and we’re working where it’s appropriate to try and help address those.”

It would be a mistake for OSHA to step away from the rule, Frederick said.

“An industry hold on this rule essentially, to me, says they don’t want to see a rule,” Frederick said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Pearson in Washington at spearson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The Abrasives Blasting Manufacturers Alliance comments are available at: http://src.bna.com/mX0

The Public Citizen comments are available at: http://src.bna.com/mX2

Byrne's letter is available at http://src.bna.com/mXZ.

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Try Occupational Safety & Health Reporter℠