Lower beryllium exposure limit set, enforcement delayed until May | March 12, 2018 Issue - Vol. 96 Issue 11 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 96 Issue 11 | p. 21 | News of The Week
Issue Date: March 12, 2018

Lower beryllium exposure limit set, enforcement delayed until May

By Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: Industrial safety, beryllium, OSHA

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration will begin enforcing a final rule limiting occupational exposure to beryllium in general industry, construction, and shipyards on May 11, two months later than planned. Airborne beryllium damages workers’ lungs through exposure from a host of activities: foundry and smelting operations, fabricating, machining, grinding beryllium metal and alloys, ceramics manufacturing, and dental lab work. Beryllium exposure is also a concern for people handling fly ash residue from coal-burning power plants and in the construction and shipyard industries. The final rule replaces a 40-year-old exposure limit that was outdated and did not adequately protect worker health, OSHA says. OSHA formally began a rule-making process in 2002 and proposed a rule in 2015. Once in place, the rule will toughen exposure limits to one-tenth of the current level. OSHA has estimated the rule will save the lives of 94 workers annually. The delay was necessary to provide more time for compliance, OSHA says.

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James Wasil (March 15, 2018 10:11 PM)
A widely heard story in industrial hygiene circles is that the initial threshold limit value (TLV) for beryllium was created on the back of an envelope. A number of chemical exposure level values were created by the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (most with much more science). OSHA initially adopted exposure limits from the 1968 TLV tables; this was necessary to do when OSHA was formed in 1971 and was straight forward. But it has proved much more difficult to make changes to the initial list. It is gratifying that finally we have a level which will protect workers and others who may be exposed.

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