September 3, 2020

OSHA Revises Beryllium Standards for Construction, Shipyards

A final rule published by OSHA in the Federal Register on Monday revises the agency’s beryllium standards for construction and shipyards. The changes focus on tailoring the standards’ requirements to exposures in the construction and shipyards industries and seek to “simplify or improve compliance.” According to the agency, the changes also clarify requirements concerning materials that contain only trace amounts of beryllium. The rule will take effect on Sept. 30, 2020.

OSHA’s changes affect provisions for methods of compliance, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment, housekeeping, hazard communication, medical surveillance, and recordkeeping. The agency has removed a paragraph describing requirements related to hygiene areas and practices based on its determination that the agency’s existing standards for sanitation provide comparable protections for workers. The final rule also adds a definition for “beryllium sensitization” (“a response in the immune system of a specific individual who has been exposed to beryllium,” according to OSHA) and modifies existing definitions for “chronic beryllium disease (CBD),” “CBD diagnostic center,” and “confirmed positive.” It eliminates the definitions of “emergency” and “high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.”

A detailed explanation of OSHA’s revisions is available in the Federal Register.

The OSHA final rule “Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds” was published in January 2017 and comprised three standards, one each for general industry, construction, and shipyards. The 2017 rule replaced the decades-old permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium, reducing the PEL from 2 µg/m3 to 0.2 µg/m3 averaged over eight hours. The rule also established a new short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2 µg/m3 over a 15-minute sampling period. Further information about the final rule and related beryllium rulemaking is available on OSHA’s website.