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OSHA to Save Lives with New Beryllium Standard

OSHA to Save Lives with New Beryllium Standard

New Beryllium Standard

Starting May 11th OSHA will begin to enforce a new standard concerning workers exposure to Beryllium. This timeframe will allow stakeholders to learn about the dangers and their obligations in protecting their employees from the dangerous chemical. The new rule is estimated to save nearly a hundred lives each year and prevent beryllium-related diseases among workers.

The New Rule reduces the Permissible Exposure Limit to an average of .2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over an 8-hour period. It also reduces the short-term exposure limit to an average of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a short 15-minute time frame. The change also requires engineering controls to put in place to lower exposure or use respiratory protection when other methods of control are not achievable. Employers also have to train their workers on safe handling and working with the material and require medical exams to ensure that workers are not suffering from adverse health effects from the chemical.

Beryllium is an extremely strong lightweight metal used in aerospace, electronics, telecommunications, defense industries, and even is used in the medical field. Beryllium copper alloys are used a lot due to their electrical and thermal conductivity, hardness, and resistance to corrosion.

Unfortunately, this useful element is also toxic to the body. Exposure to beryllium is usually respiratory and can cause Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) and lung cancer. CBD is a serious lung disease that can lead to death or debilitation. Though some workers can develop quickly, other who are exposed may become sick gradually. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.

OSHA hopes to mitigate the number of workers who are exposed to dangerous levels of this disease and believes these New standards will help prevent workers from overexposure.

Earlier this year, OSHA made changes to their beryllium standard for the general industry. These changes, according to OSHA, were made to clarify “aspects of the beryllium standard for general industry as it applies to processes, operations, or areas where workers may be exposed to materials containing less than 0.1% beryllium by weight.”

What is Beryllium?

Beryllium is a chemical element that is alloyed with copper or nickel. It is used to make items such as electrical contacts, non-sparking tools, and even some missiles. Although it is useful for these items, it comes with its own risks. One such health risk is beryllium disease, which causes symptoms like pneumonia or bronchitis. It can also cause a risk of lung cancer if too much dust or fumes are inhaled.

What are the Changes?

When the direct final rule was established, it was said to update the definitions that apply to beryllium work areas, skin contact, and even contamination. This effort also enforces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for all three standards that pertain to beryllium. This new PEL revision establishes the limit of “2.0 µg/m3 over a 15-minute sampling period and an action level of 0.1 µg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA…” according to the revised standard

Why is this Important?

Every year, thousands of workers are exposed to beryllium. By updating the standard OSHA is ensuring that workers are properly protected and informed. Instead of losing hundreds of people each year to beryllium-related diseases, it will instead save more lives and help prevent more from occurring. Make sure that you are staying updated and following the new standards that have been set up by OSHA. You will not only protect your workers, you will also protect your company in the process.

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