Proposed Standard Intends to Lower Beryllium Exposures

The OSHA proposal has support from Materion, the nation's primary beryllium product manufacturer.

Thanks to collaboration between industry and labor, a long-sought-after OSHA proposal intends to dramatically lower workplace exposure to beryllium, a widely used metal material that can cause lung disease. OSHA estimates that the new proposal would cover 35,000 workers.

The current exposure limit for beryllium, 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, was developed in the 1940s and adopted by OSHA in 1971. The new standard would reduce the eight-hour permissible exposure limit to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, a 90 percent decrease.

According to an OSHA news release, the proposed rule would also require additional protections, including personal protective equipment, medical exams, and training.

In a news conference following the release, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said that this was a "long, overdue step" toward protecting workers. Michaels credited the collaboration between OSHA and Materion, the nation's primary beryllium product manufacturer, as well as the United Steelworkers union as the reason for the proposal to finally be published.

"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. "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."

Workers who inhale beryllium particles can develop chronic beryllium disease and are also at an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

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