OSHA Issues Final Beryllium Standard for General Industry

On Monday, July 13, OSHA published its final rule revising the beryllium standard for general industry.

Beryllium and its related compounds are strong, lightweight metals used in a number of industries, including aerospace, electrical, telecommunications, defense and medical. They are frequently used as a result of their excellent electrical and thermal conductivity. For example, beryllium oxide is used in manufacturing ceramics for electronics and other electrical equipment, such as electrical switchgear.

The dangers? When inhaled, beryllium is highly toxic and can lead to chronic beryllium disease, as well as lung cancer, both of which can lead to death.

OSHA’s new final rule amends a number of paragraphs of the beryllium standard for general industry. These paragraphs include: Definitions, Methods of Compliance, Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment, Hygiene Areas and Practices, Housekeeping, Medical Surveillance, Hazard Communication, and Recordkeeping. The new final rule also features a new Appendix A: “Operations for Establishing Beryllium Work Areas.”

“These changes maintain protection for employees while ensuring that the standard is well understood and compliance is simple and straightforward,” OSHA said in announcing the new standard.

The compliance date for this new final standard is September 14, 2020. OSHA has been enforcing most of its beryllium provisions for general industry since December 12, 2018. It has been enforcing the related provisions for change rooms and showers since March 11, 2019 and began enforcing the provisions for engineering controls since March 10, 2020.

According to OSHA’s estimates, the new final standard will affect approximately 50,500 workers employed in general industry, and, it says, “is estimated to yield minor net cost savings to employers.”

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