The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a proposed rule to revise the beryllium standard for general industry, proposing changes that seek to clarify, simplify and improve compliance with the standard, according to the agency.
The proposed rule would amend selected paragraphs of the standard, according to an OSHA news release announcing the proposal. "Definitions," "Methods of Compliance," "Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment," "Hygiene Areas and Practices," "Housekeeping," "Medical Surveillance," "Hazard Communication" and "Recordkeeping" would be among the paragraphs altered by the rule. The proposal would also create a new Appendix A, "Operations for Establishing Beryllium Work Areas," to replace the existing Appendix A, which currently lists suggested controls.
Though far-reaching, the new proposals do not change the permissible exposure limit for beryllium, according to Safety.BLR. The original 2017 rule set the PEL for beryllium of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over 8 hours, and a short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a 15-minute sampling period as the maximum acceptable levels of exposure workers could experience without being put at risk to develop chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.
While these amendments do nothing to reverse that central mandate, they do affect several other aspects of the rule, including adding or altering six terms in the "Definitions" paragraph: "beryllium sensitization," "beryllium work area," "CBD diagnostic center," "dermal contact with beryllium," "chronic beryllium disease" and "confirmed positive," the latter regarding tests to determine beryllium sensitization.
OSHA has also proposed wording changes that would clarify, among other things, that the procedures for minimizing cross-contamination within beryllium work areas may not necessarily eliminate the transfer of beryllium completely.
Other alterations impact requirements for when employers must provide washing facilities, how employers must communicate risk and what information employers must provide to businesses or individuals hired to clean and launder personal protective clothing and equipment.
Some of the changes make the rule less strict for employers. A proposed change to the "medical surveillance" section would increase the amount of time an employer has to conduct a medical examination of an employee exposed to beryllium from within 30 days to between 1 and 2 years after exposure. Additionally, an alteration to the "recordkeeping" paragraph would remove the requirements that employers include each employee's Social Security number in the air-monitoring data, medical surveillance and training provisions.
OSHA stated that while this proposal is pending, "compliance with the standard as modified" by the new rule "will be accepted as compliance."
The proposed rule was published in the Dec. 11 Federal Register, the day before certain components of the 2017 rule were to go into effect.
The delays in fully implementing the 2017 standard, as well as the new changes just recently proposed, stem in part from a settlement agreement with the National Association of Manufacturers, AirBorn Inc., Materion Brush Inc. and Mead Metals Inc., according to Safety and Health Magazine.
OSHA estimated that 62,000 workers in the U.S. are exposed to beryllium, a lightweight metal used in electronics and the defense industry that can lead to serious health concerns in the event of overexposure. The new proposal only impacts regulations related to general industry, meaning the changes will affect approximately 50,000 of those 62,000 total workers.
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