By Sam Pearson
New limits for beryllium will save lives and curb illness among foundry workers and those employed in smelting, fabricating and other industries who may be exposed to the cancer-causing metal, OSHA said in a final rule issued Jan. 6.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s final rule (RIN:1218-AB76) lowers the permissible exposure limit for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour time-weighted average, or 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a sampling period of 15 minutes. Employers face new requirements for assessing exposure and will have to minimize worker exposure through respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment, housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazard communication and recordkeeping.
“Outdated exposure limits do not adequately protect workers from beryllium exposure,” OSHA Director David Michaels said in a statement Jan. 6.
The rule, replacing a standard that is over four decades old, is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register Jan. 9.
OSHA said the rule will cost $73.9 million each year and prevent 90 premature deaths and 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease when fully implemented. The rule contains three standards for general industry, shipyards and construction and will primarily protect workers in foundry and smelting operations, fabricating, machining, grinding beryllium metal and alloys, beryllium oxide ceramics manufacturing and dental lab work.
Compliance “is economically feasible in every affected industry sector,” OSHA said.
The rule, coming in the final days of the Obama administration, has had a long path to publication.
The United Steelworkers union and Materion Corp., the largest manufacturer of beryllium in the U.S., negotiated a draft of the standard in 2012, then submitted it to OSHA.
“We are just overjoyed that the rule’s finally been released,” Michael Wright, the USW’s health and safety director, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 6, recalling working on the issue when he joined the union in 1977. “We know we’re going to have to defend it; there are people that are going to attack it. That’s tomorrow—today is really a day for celebration.”
A Materion spokesman said in a statement to Bloomberg BNA Jan. 6 that the company does not yet have a position on the final rule.
“We are withholding comment on our view or specifics of the final standard until we have reviewed the more than 900-page document,” the spokesman said.
Michaels predicted Nov. 30 the rule would “be welcomed by both industry and labor.”
But the unintentional release of a draft final version of the rule to members of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Beryllium Health and Safety Committee, of which Materion Corp. is a member, prompted the company to complain it was unworkable and different from what it had agreed to.
In a statement Jan. 6, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, credited OSHA for expanding the plan to include standards for maritime and construction workers, a change from its 2015 proposal.
Scott said the old standard “was obsolete the day it was issued back in 1948.”
While congressional Republicans and the incoming Trump administration have signaled they plan to aggressively target Obama administration-issued regulations, it’s not clear if the beryllium standard meets the criteria.
The rule was developed more cooperatively than other agency rulemakings, but it also affects more companies than just Materion. At the same time, it’s not clear how Materion and others will view OSHA’s revisions.
Under federal law, Wright noted, OSHA cannot simply approve proposed standards by outside groups but must perform its own evaluation and propose what its research supports.
Once the rule takes effect, employers will have one year to implement most provisions, but will have two years to provide required changing rooms and showers and three years to implement required engineering controls.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Pearson in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
The final rule is available at http://src.bna.com/lco
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)