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September 30, 2019
OSHA moving forward with Obama-era beryllium rules

On September 30, OSHA withdrew its proposal to revoke the ancillary provisions of the construction and shipyard beryllium standards. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) and short-term exposure limit (STEL) already have gone into effect, and the agency will implement the other provisions of the January 9, 2017, final rule, which will become effective September 30, 2020.

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On June 27, 2017, OSHA had proposed revoking the ancillary provisions in the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards, while retaining the PEL of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) and the STEL of 2.0 µg/m3. The agency suggested portions of the standards duplicated other standards and that those other standards along with the PEL and STEL could adequately protect workers from beryllium exposures. OSHA asked stakeholders to comment on the proposed revocations.

The agency’s new position is that there is little or no overlap between other standards and the construction and shipyard beryllium standards. OSHA now will allow the ancillary provisions of the standard to take effect in one year.

Employers then will have to comply with the exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE), housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping requirements of the January 9, 2017, final rule.

OSHA plans to publish a new proposal for the construction and shipyards beryllium standards, seeking comment on different changes the agency is considering. The agency expects to propose changes similar to those proposed December 11, 2018 for the general industry beryllium standard.

New thinking on beryllium protections

After reviewing comments on the proposed revocations, OSHA decided that construction and shipyard beryllium standards consisting only of the PEL and STEL would be insufficient to protect workers. The agency concluded that despite some overlap with other standards, paragraphs (d) through (n) of the beryllium standards are necessary to ensure compliance with the PEL and STEL.

OSHA came to the following conclusions about the standards’ ancillary provisions:

  • No other standards duplicate the exposure assessment requirements in the beryllium standards;
  • The competent person requirement of the construction standard and the regulated area requirement of the shipyard standard are necessary to ensure all affected workers are protected;
  • Other standards do not provide protection equivalent to those in the methods of compliance requirements of the two beryllium standards;
  • While the respiratory protection requirements in the beryllium standards duplicate those of other standards for employees engaged in abrasive blasting, protections for other workers are not duplicated elsewhere;
  • Only the PPE clothing requirements in the beryllium standards cover all affected workers;
  • The hygiene areas and practices provisions of the two beryllium standards are necessary to ensure workers are not exposed to beryllium dust in eating and drinking areas;
  • The housekeeping provisions of the beryllium standards do not completely overlap with the housekeeping requirements of other standards;
  • There are no other standards that would require medical surveillance of beryllium-exposed employees;
  • The medical removal program requirements of the beryllium standards provide incentive for employees to comply with the medical surveillance program;
  • The hazard communication provisions of the beryllium standards go beyond requirements of the general hazard communication standard (HCS); and
  • No other standards duplicate the recordkeeping requirements of the beryllium standard.

The agency decided not to revoke the ancillary provisions of the January 9, 2017 final rule. OSHA next will propose other changes to the construction and shipyard standards consistent with those already proposed for the general industry standard. The September 30, 2019, final rule is available here.

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