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OSHA Sets New Hearing on Beryllium

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has scheduled another hearing to gather information about its proposed rule on lowering beryllium exposure time.

OSHA set the informal public hearing for 2 p.m. Feb. 29, according to a notice published Dec. 30 in the Federal Register. The hearing will be held at the Department of Labor’s offices in Washington, D.C.

If necessary, the agency said, it will continue those hearings from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on subsequent days.

Beryllium Background

OSHA hasn’t said if the information gathered from that meeting could have an affect on workers who perform abrasive blasting. As reported in 2015, the proposed rulemaking—which the agency published Aug. 7 in the Federal Register—would not cover those workers now.

The long-awaited “Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds” will not cover the construction or maritime industries. It also is unlike the rule the agency has considered for years.

Workers who use coal-slag, copper-slag or crushed glass abrasive blasting methods already are covered by other regulations that would protect them from beryllium exposure, the agency said last summer. OSHA said abrasive blasters in the construction industry, for example, fall under the protection of the Ventilation standard (29 CFR 1926.57).

OSHA

OSHA is holding an informal public hearing in February to receive additional information for its proposed rulemaking on beryllium.

The proposed rule also rejects, in part, a 2014 recommendation from OSHA’s own Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH). That recommendation stated that the construction industry should be included in the scope of the proposed rule reducing beryllium limits.

Still, the agency said, the proposed rulemaking would improve workers' conditions in several other industries.

“This proposal will save lives and help thousands of workers stay healthy and be more productive on the job,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in the agency’s August statement. “We’re pleased that industry has been such a strong voice in advocating for a more rigorous standard.

“The proposal is strong because of unprecedented partnership between manufacturers and the United Steelworkers,” he said.

In its Fall 2015 agenda, OSHA said that the rulemaking would become final in 2016.

Currently, the eight-hour Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for beryllium is 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air. It is a standard the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, the agency said.

OSHA said it adopted that standard in 1971—one year after the Occupational Safety and Health Act established the federal agency. The proposed rulemaking would reduce the PEL to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter over an eight-hour period.

It also would require personal protective equipment, medical exams, training and other protections.

Blasting and Beryllium

Beryllium is a component of coal, certain rock materials, volcanic dust and soil used in several industrial applications. Breathing air containing beryllium can deposit beryllium particles in the lungs, presenting immune-system and respiratory risks. Beryllium is a known human carcinogen and can cause chronic lung disease.

A 1999 OSHA Safety and Health Bulletin warned of the hazards of workplace exposures to the chemical and said that 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air for an 8-hour time-weighted average may not be adequate to prevent chronic beryllium disease.

©iStock.com / shime02

OSHA estimates that 23,000 workers in construction are “potentially exposed” to excessive levels of beryllium, putting them at risk of sensitization, chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

OSHA estimates that 23,000 workers in construction are “potentially exposed” to excessive levels of beryllium, putting them at risk of sensitization, chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

In 2012, the United States Steel Workers and other unions teamed up with Materion Brush Inc.—the largest producer of beryllium in the U.S.—to produce a draft text for a rule to lower the occupational PEL.

The coal-slag abrasive blasting industry would be “one of the most impacted groups” under the standard proposed by Materion, the company was reported as saying in 2014.

In an Aug. 6, 2015 statement, OSHA officials said they would seek comments to determine whether workers who perform abrasive-blasting work—such as highway construction workers preparing bridge structures or shipyard employees clearing paint off a ship’s hull—should be covered by the final rule. That comment period ended last year.

Testimony Requirements

Those who wish to testify in February’s hearing intend to present testimony or must submit the full text of their testimony and all documentary evidence by Jan. 29.

Submissions may be sent electronically to Regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal; by mail; or by hand delivery. Instructions are available through the Federal Register publication.

   

Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Beryllium; Coal slag; Government; OSHA; OSHA; Silica

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