US Department of Labor Delays Beryllium Rule For the Second Time
On January 9, 2017, OSHA published a rule entitled “Occupational Exposure to Beryllium.” The new rule amends OSHA’s existing standards for occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds. Beryllium and beryllium compounds are important materials used in various industries, but they are highly toxic, and if inhaled, can increase the risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer. The rule change was the result of OSHA’s determination that employees exposed to beryllium at the previously permissible exposure limits faced a significant risk of material impairment to their health. The new rule establishes permissible exposure limits of 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air (0.2 μg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average and 2.0 μg/m3 as a short-term exposure limit determined over a sampling period of 15 minutes. It also includes other provisions to protect employees, such as requirements for exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment, housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and record-keeping.
An OSHA Fact Sheet regarding the rule, and the rule itself, are available for review on OSHA’s website. Additionally, the specific standards that will apply to General Industry, Construction, and Shipyards are available as well. As of now, the final rule will take effect on May 20, 2017. The three sectors then have until March 12, 2018 to comply with most of the requirements. All sectors then have until March 11, 2019 to provide any required change rooms and showers and until March 10, 2020 to implement engineering controls.
The rule was originally scheduled to become effective on March 10, 2017. The effective date was then delayed to March 21, 2017. On March 1, 2017, however, OSHA issued a National News Release stating the effective date was pushed back a second time to May 20, 2017. These delays stem from a White House memorandum issued on January 20, 2017 directing the Department of Labor to review any new or pending regulations and postpone their effective dates. As a result, OSHA has postponed the effective date of the new rule twice to allow for further review and consideration.