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Beryllium Exposure Rule Going Through Changes, OSHA Admits

By Joseph Dreesen
  • June 22, 2017

The rule to lower permissible workplace exposure to beryllium is undergoing changes in a White House review, Occupational Safety and Health Administration deputy director for standards and guidance Maureen Ruskin has told safety specialists, as reported by Bloomberg BNA. The final rule took effect on May 20, 2017, and employers must comply with most of the rule’s requirements by March 12, 2018.

Ruskin said there would be “some proposed changes to the standards that apply to construction and shipyards operations,” according to the Bloomberg BNA report. She was speaking at the 2017 conference of the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition in Seattle.

The Obama Administration finalized the rule updating a 40-year-old standard for permissible levels of beryllium, which has been linked to lung cancer and other lung illnesses. OSHA said the rule will cost $73.9 million each year and prevent 90 premature deaths and 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease when fully implemented. The rule contains three standards for general industry, shipyards, and construction, and the agency previously said it mostly will protect workers in foundry and smelting operations, fabricating, machining, grinding beryllium metal and alloys, beryllium oxide ceramics manufacturing, and dental lab work. The rule was to take effect on January 9, 2017, but the new Administration has repeatedly delayed the effective date.

Reportedly attempting to resolve a lawsuit filed by industry groups over the rule at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Ruskin explained the agency is analyzing issues with the beryllium standard for general industry. See Airborne et al. v. OSHA, No. 17-1124 (8th Cir. filed Jan. 18. 2017). “Those issues are wider and a little bit more varied” than the other standards, the OSHA official said.

Further, on June 15, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed review of an “Occupational Exposure to Beryllium” proposed rule submitted by OSHA on April 27, 2017. This proposal is widely expected to also strip the construction and maritime industries from the rule’s scope.

Finally, on May 18, 2017, six Democratic senators, in a letter to the Inspector General at the Department of Labor, said they were “deeply concerned” about the repeated delay of the rule’s effective date.

In short, it appears the rule is still in flux.

Jackson Lewis attorneys can assist clients to understand how developments in Washington politics affect safety and health issues.

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