Slow Progress on Long-Awaited Beryllium Rule

The safety and health community shouldn't hold out hope for the long-sought beryllium exposure standard to be issued by OSHA in the final days of the Bush administration. The latest Department of Labor semiannual regulatory agenda, which was published this week, lists one more step in its evolution – a March 2009 completion of a peer review of health effects and risk assessment – but nothing further, such as an NPRM.

The agency says it has been working on this rule for more than six years. In 1999 and 2001, the Paper Allied-Industrial, Chemical, and Energy Workers Union, Public Citizen Health Research Group, and others petitioned OSHA to regulate worker exposures to beryllium via an emergency temporary standard. The agency denied the petitions but said it would begin gathering data on beryllium's toxicity, risks, and usage patterns – which it did on Nov. 26, 2002, when OSHA published a Request for Information to solicit information. The agency also conducted field surveys of selected work sites to assess current exposures and control methods being used to reduce employee exposures to beryllium. OSHA says it plans to use that information to develop a proposed rule.

The review of the proposed rule that is required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 was completed on Jan. 23, 2008, according to the agency.

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