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New Rule on Beryllium Could Save 50 Lives a Year
OSHA has proposed a new standard to dramatically lower workplace exposure to beryllium, a widely used material that can cause devastating lung diseases. The agency estimates the change could prevent almost 100 deaths and 50 serious illnesses each year.
Currently, OSHA’s eight-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium is 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Above that level, employers must take steps to reduce the airborne concentration of beryllium. OSHA’s proposed standard would reduce the eight-hour PEL to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The proposal would also require additional protections, including personal protective equipment, medical exams, additional medical surveillance and training.
Materion, the nation’s primary beryllium product manufacturer, along with the United Steelworkers, the union representing many employees who work with beryllium, recognized the need for a lower PEL several years ago. Together, the two parties approached OSHA in 2012 to suggest a stronger standard — an action that prompted the current proposal.
OSHA is accepting written comments on the proposed rulemaking through Nov. 9, 2015.