The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is delaying from March 12 to May 11 implementation of the new beryllium exposure standard, which was released in the final days of the Obama administration.
Beryllium is used in the aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunication, medical and defense industries. Beryllium dust, a byproduct of the processing of the substance, is highly toxic and adversely affects the lungs. Workers in foundry and smelting operations, fabricating, machining, grinding beryllium metal and alloys, beryllium oxide ceramics manufacturing and dental lab work represent the majority of at-risk workers.
Therefore, the now-delayed standard restricts exposure to beryllium in certain industries from the previous level of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter during an eight-hour period. It also limits short-term exposure to 2.0 micrograms over a maximum of 15 minutes.
In a statement regarding the delay of implementation, OSHA stated:
In January 2017, OSHA issued new comprehensive health standards addressing exposure to beryllium in all industries. In response to feedback from stakeholders, the agency is considering technical updates to the January 2017 general industry standard, which will clarify and simplify compliance with requirements. OSHA will also begin enforcing on May 11, 2018, the new lower 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit (STEL) for construction and shipyard industries. In the interim, if an employer fails to meet the new PEL or STEL, OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance.
In releasing the standard last year, OSHA said implementation would save 94 lives annually. It also gave industries affected by the rule one-year to be fully compliant and an additional year to install required changing rooms and showers.
It remains to be seen what changes might be made to the standard once the Trump-era OSHA finishes “considering technical updates.”