OSHA Beryllium Proposal Sent to White House, Likely Weakens Rule

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By Sam Pearson

OSHA may be finished reviewing the beryllium rule after sending a proposed rule to the White House for review April 27.

The action could be a precursor to publication of a new proposed rule more favorable to industry organizations. At the same time, the rule may not reduce exposure to beryllium as much as the previous regulation, which was estimated to prevent 94 worker deaths per year.

Records show the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent a proposed beryllium rule ( RIN:1218-AB76) to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. The agency had previously delayed the rule, citing concerns raised by the construction and shipyard industries they were improperly included in the regulation.

In public comments to OSHA filed March 13, the Abrasives Blasting Manufacturers Alliance said the industry “is already extensively regulated, and there is no evidence that the existing regulations are in any way insufficient to protect workers.”

In 2015, OSHA issued a proposed rule containing only a general industry standard, but asked for more information on whether construction and shipyard workers should also be included.

Legal Fight Likely

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, OSHA will have to publish a new proposed rule in the Federal Register after it is approved by OMB. The agency will have to cite a basis for weakening the standards, which will likely face legal challenges from labor organizations and other groups.

Michael Wright, health and safety director for the United Steelworkers union, told Bloomberg BNA April 28 he had not seen the proposed rule, but believed it involved loosening or eliminating the standard for shipyards and construction.

“Courts have a history of looking very skeptically at proposals to remove worker rights and remove worker protections and make things less safe for workers,” Wright said. “If what they propose actually makes things less safe for workers, we’re going to fight it every step of the way in every venue.”

OSHA representatives did not respond to a Bloomberg BNA request for comment April 28.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Connolly at PConnolly@bna.com

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