Beryllium exposure limits passed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in January 2017 will be enforced starting on May 11.
Beryllium is a chemical element that can be highly toxic if inhaled. In the final rule passed last winter, OSHA found a significant risk of chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer to construction workers who perform abrasive blasting. The agency set permissible exposure limits to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over eight hours and short-term exposure limits to 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a 15-minute period.
OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in June 2017 that walked back additional provisions of the final rule following comments from industry stakeholders and a review of existing standards. OSHA noted that although it’s still convinced that workers face a “significant risk of material impairment of health” at the new exposure limits, those risks are limited to workers who do abrasive blasting.
Furthermore, “OSHA has a number of standards already applicable to these operations, including ventilation (29 CFR 1926.57) and mechanical paint removers (29 CFR 1915.34),” according to the rule published in the Federal Register.
The construction industries affected by the rule include painting and wall covering contractors, and specialty trade contractors. OSHA estimates that by removing the additional provisions of the final rule, those types of firms stand to save $7.8 million.