OSHA finalizes rule reducing exposure limits for beryllium (US)

In a final rule published on January 9, 2017 in the Federal Register, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revises beryllium exposure for workers in general industry, construction, and shipyards. OSHA is promulgating independent rules for each of the three industries to provide tailored requirements for the specific circumstances of each industry. Although each industry will be tailored, there are many common elements across the three standards. The eight-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium will be reduced from the current 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. OSHA is also establishing a short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter over a 15-minute sampling period. In addition to the new exposure limits, OSHA will require additional worker protections, including regulated areas, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment, medical surveillance, and training.  The effective date for all three industries (general industry, construction, and shipyards) is March 10, 2017. However, the implementation of the final rule will be staggered to provide time for employers to address the new requirements.

In the final rule, OSHA exempts materials containing less than 0.1% beryllium by weight if the employer has objective data that shows employee exposure to beryllium will remain below the action level of 0.1 μg/m3 as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) under all foreseeable conditions.

Exposure assessments must be repeated within six months if exposure levels are at or above the action level, but at or below the PEL, and repeated within three months if exposure levels are above the PEL or STEL. When exposure levels fall below the action level and STEL, employers may discontinue exmposure monitoring.

Regulated work areas are required in general industry wherever employees can reasonably be expected to be exposed to airborne beryllium. They are also required where processes or operations have potential dermal contact.

Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) are required whenever respiratory protection is required and the employee requests a PAPR. Personal protective clothing and equipment is required where exposure exceeds, or is reasonably expected to exceed, the TWA PEL or STEL, or there is a reasonable expectation of dermal contact.

Medical surveillance is required for employees who are or are reasonably expected to be exposed to beryllium at or above the action level for more than 30 days per year. Periodic monitoring is also required when recommended in a written medical opinion. Medical examinations must be offered at least every two years.

The rule becomes effective March 10, 2017. All requirements, except for change rooms and showers and engineering controls must be implemented by March 12, 2018. Change rooms and showers must be provided by March 11, 2019, and engineering controls must be implemented by March 10, 2020.

The new standards to be added are §§ 1910.1024, 1915.1024, and 1926.1124.

Sources :

OSHA, Final rule, Occupational exposure to beryllium, 82 FR 2470, January 9, 2017