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OSHA Enforcing New Beryllium Standards to Protect Workers

Jason Reese

Synopsis

  • On May 12, 2018, OSHA will begin to enforce a new rule on beryllium exposure in all forms, compounds, and mixtures in general, construction, and shipyard industries, prompting employers to take further responsibility to protect worker health from beryllium-related diseases.
  • Beryllium is a toxic element and listed as a Class A EPA carcinogen because exposure can cause chronic beryllium disease, an often-fatal lung disease.
  • OSHA estimates that the new rule may have the ability to save 90 lives from beryllium-related diseases and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year as well as provide net benefits of about $560.9 million, annually.
  • Indiana workers are entitled to an environment and conditions that do not pose a risk of serious bodily harm.

OSHA Set to Enforce New Beryllium Standard This May

In January 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began to address exposure to beryllium in all industries and has since been assisting employers with identifying harmful exposure levels in support of replacing a 40-year-old permissible exposure limit (PEL) for the strong, toxic metal. The current PEL is outdated and did not adequately limit hazardous work environments. On May 12, 2018, OSHA will begin to enforce the final rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in all forms, compounds, and mixtures in general, construction, and shipyard industries. At that time, employers will have further obligations to protect worker health from beryllium-related diseases and the workers’ rights attorneys at Wagner Reese will be holding those who are not following the new rule accountable.

According to OSHA, the new rule will:

  • Reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8-hours.
  • Establish a new short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period.
  • Require employers to: use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure) to limit worker exposure to beryllium; provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high-exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan; and train workers on beryllium hazards.
  • Require employers to make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provide medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.

Workers Can Become Sensitized to Beryllium Hazard

It’s estimated by the National Institutes for Health that around 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium on the job each year. Worker exposures to beryllium most often occur in:

  • ceramics manufacturing
  • coal-fired power plants
  • construction and shipyard industries
  • dental lab work
  • fabricating
  • foundry and smelting operations
  • grinding beryllium metal and alloys
  • machining

Workers who have inhaled or are in contact with beryllium can be impacted by an immune response that results in the body becoming sensitized to the toxin. Sensitization can then trigger debilitating diseases.

Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD)

Individuals with beryllium sensitization are at risk for chronic beryllium disease (CBD), and even lung cancer. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) say it may take months or years after exposure to beryllium to appear and that CBD will continue to progress even after a worker has been removed from an exposed worksite. At this time, there is no known cure for CBD.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Indiana workers have the right to report errors, dangers, and injuries of their job without the fear of retaliation from an employer, discrimination, or the loss of work.

We Hold Employers Accountable

If your workplace has exposed you to harmful limits of beryllium, the work injury attorneys at Wagner Reese are here to support your workers’ compensation claim and get you back to good health. If you have lost a loved one due to a harmful workplace exposure or employer negligence, wrongful death damages can be awarded.

We put decades of experience to work for you, and we won’t collect any fees unless your case is settled or won. Connect with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information. If you wish to speak directly with us, please call (888) 204-8440.

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