July 16, 2020

New OSHA Rule Revises Beryllium Standard for General Industry

A final rule issued by OSHA on Monday revises the agency’s beryllium standard for general industry. The changes affect provisions for methods of compliance, personal protective clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping. 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,” OSHA says) and modifies existing definitions for “beryllium work area,” “CBD diagnostic center,” “chronic beryllium disease,” “confirmed positive,” and “dermal contact with beryllium.” Under the new rule, the standard’s Appendix A is being replaced with a new appendix on operations for establishing beryllium work areas.

According to OSHA, the amendments to the standard are intended to “clarify certain provisions and simplify or improve compliance.” The agency states that some of the revisions will result in cost savings for employers. The new final rule is considered to be a deregulatory action under presidential Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” which was signed in February 2017 to “alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens” on Americans. The standard as modified will take effect on Sept. 14, 2020.

A Federal Register notice provides a detailed explanation of OSHA’s new and revised provisions.

Beryllium is used in many applications in the defense, aerospace, nuclear, telecommunications, and medical industries. The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists beryllium as a Group 1 carcinogen, the agency’s designation for agents that carry sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans (PDF). The National Toxicology Program lists beryllium and beryllium compounds as “known to be human carcinogens” (PDF). OSHA estimates that 62,000 workers are potentially exposed to beryllium in more than 7,000 workplaces in the United States. The agency expects its new final standard will affect approximately 50,500 workers in general industry.

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 rulemaking history of OSHA’s beryllium standards is available in the Federal Register.