Beryllium in construction: OSHA advisory committee to host teleconference on potential rule changes

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Washington — OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health has scheduled a teleconference/WebEx meeting for Sept. 9 to discuss potential changes to beryllium regulations, according to a notice published in the Aug. 8 Federal Register.

OSHA wants to “revoke the ancillary provisions” in the construction and shipyard industries but maintain the permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air and short-term exposure limit of 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the agency states in a proposed rule published June 27, 2017. These provisions include exposure monitoring, regulated areas (and competent person in construction), written exposure control plans, protective equipment, medical surveillance, medical removal and worker training.

“OSHA has evidence that exposure in these industries is limited to a few operations and has information suggesting that requiring the ancillary provisions broadly may not improve worker protection and be redundant with overlapping protections in other standards,” the agency states in a press release issued June 23, 2017.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal used in industries such as electronics and energy. It can be highly toxic when released into the atmosphere, where workers can inhale it. Exposure can pose serious health risks to workers, including chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

Requests to speak or present a written or electronic presentation during the teleconference are due Sept. 4.

ACCSH advises the Department of Labor and OSHA on upcoming standards affecting the construction industry and “the administration of safety and health provisions” in the Construction Safety Act.

U.S. Department of Labor Proposes to Revise Beryllium Standard for General Industry

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued a proposed rule to revise the beryllium standard for general industry. The proposed changes are designed to clarify the standard, and to simplify or improve compliance with the standard.

The proposed rule would amend selected paragraphs of the standard, including “Definitions,” “Methods of Compliance,” “Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment,” “Hygiene Areas and Practices,” “Housekeeping,” “Medical Surveillance,” “Hazard Communication,” and “Recordkeeping.” It would also remove the existing Appendix A, which lists suggested controls, and replace it with a new Appendix A, Operations for Establishing Beryllium Work Areas.

Comments, hearing requests, and other information must be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal, or by facsimile or mail. Read the Federal Register notice for submission details. Comments must be submitted by February 9, 2019. The enforcement date for the provisions affected by this proposal is December 12, 2018. While this rulemaking is pending, compliance with the standard as modified by this proposal will be accepted as compliance.

The proposal satisfies a settlement agreement with stakeholders that had concerns about some of the provisions in the 2017 beryllium final rule. The proposed rule would affect approximately 50,500 workers employed in general industry, and is estimated to yield minor net cost savings to employers. OSHA expects the proposed changes would provide employees with equivalent safety and health protections to the current standard.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.