OSHA’s New Beryllium Standard: How Technology Can Help You Maintain Compliance and Keep Employees Safe
Sponsored by Cority
OSHA issued new health standards in January 2017 to address employee beryllium exposure across all industries, with the aim of reducing health risk to workers. These standards were revised because previous permissible exposure limits were found to be inadequate for protecting employees. In addition, the PELs were determined to be outdated and based on research that is not supported by more recent scientific studies. Since the previous PELs were established 45 years ago, many international agencies have now classified beryllium as a human carcinogen, and there is a growing body of evidence that suggests low-level exposures can cause chronic beryllium disease (CBD), which can be a very serious lung condition. This article will provide more information on OSHA’s new rule, outline who’s at risk, and discuss how technology can help you achieve compliance.
Who is at risk?
Around 62,000 workers in aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunications, and construction are exposed to beryllium in the workplace. Typical activities in these industries include secondary smelting and refining, precision turned products, copper rolling and extruding, and welding.
When does the beryllium standard go into effect, and what will its impact be?
On May 11, 2018, OSHA started enforcing the beryllium PELs for the construction and maritime industries, as well as some requirements of the general industry standard. Enforcement of other requirements for general industry—including beryllium work areas, regulated work areas, methods of compliance, personal protective clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, housekeeping, communication of hazards, and recordkeeping—has been delayed until Aug. 9, 2018. As of this writing, March 10, 2020, is the date by which compliance with the all remaining requirements must be adhered to.
The rule is estimated to provide an average net benefit of $560.9 million annually over the next 60 years, with an annualized cost of $73.9 million, which works out to about $10,100 annually for the typical workplace.
Once the full effects of the new beryllium regulation are realized, OSHA predicts that it will prevent 94 deaths from beryllium-related diseases and 46 new cases of CBD annually.
What are the rule’s requirements, and how can technology help satisfy them?
Companies must adhere to a specific set of requirements to comply with this new standard. To better prepare for these changes, consider using an EHSQ software solution to manage your programs.
Software centralizes data into one platform, which can be accessed anywhere, anytime, across any device, and in a secure fashion where users are given role-based permission settings. These solutions can also support business process workflows to optimize operations. Your department can access standardized regulatory content and guidelines automatically without leaving the solution and create automatic alerts for potential or upcoming changes. Perhaps most importantly, an integrated solution provides one source of truth and allows all departments to work off the same information.
Below you’ll find a set of high-level beryllium rule requirements and examples of how technology can help you achieve compliance and protect your employees.
Develop a written exposure control, use engineering and work practice controls to limit worker exposure, and limit worker access to high-exposure areas.
Organizations can use software to standardize and track written exposure plans; manage exposure groups to identify, monitor, and trend beryllium-exposed employees; conduct risk assessments; and implement, monitor, and assess effectiveness of their exposure controls. This simplifies reporting and confirmation of compliance.
Reduce the PEL for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8 hours, and establish a new short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period.
EHSQ management systems can help track and trend beryllium sampling and monitoring details to manage employee exposure. If exposures are approaching actionable levels, automated alerts can be sent to notify your team to follow-up to validate if controls are effective.
Make medical exams available to monitor exposed workers and provide medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.
By leveraging an EHSQ solution, you can identify medical exams required, store exam results, send reminders on follow-up exams, and run reports on employees’ health data. You can also centralize medical testing, surveillance activities, diagnoses, medications, immunizations, and so on. This makes it easy to get the full picture of each employee’s health.
Train workers on beryllium hazards.
Continuous learning, training, and improvement is a pillar of every successful health and safety program. Organizations can use software to provide online training and resources to employees about how they can limit their exposure to beryllium. Making the training available on-demand makes it easy for employees to complete training on their own schedule.
Provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure.
As the last step to protect workers from beryllium exposure, employers must provide respirators. Technology can help at this stage to ensure that employees who need respiratory protection are medically cleared to wear respirators, fit-tested to have properly fitted respirators, and validated that they are wearing the proper level of protection. They can then conduct effective exposure calculations automatically based on the measured exposure level and the protection from respirators.
Watch this 90-second video to see how an EHSQ solution can help you mitigate risks, maintain compliance, and reduce employee exposure to hazards like beryllium. Visit Cority’s website for more information about Cority’s EHSQ solution and its respirator fit-testing module.