Technicians examine a James Webb Space Telescope mirror, which is made out of beryllium
On June 23 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced proposed changes to the updated beryllium standard, which has already been delayed twice in recent months. OSHA is now seeking public input on the proposal.
The changes would only impact the construction and shipyard industries, leaving general industry unchanged. Additionally, OSHA announced that it would not enforce the Jan. 9, 2017, final rule while these new changes are being considered.
The permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air and short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air would stay the same, but rules requiring certain types of personal protective equipment and medical monitoring of employees would be rolled back, according to an OSHA news release.
The proposed changes are set to be published in the Federal Register on June 27, 2017. OSHA is seeking comments from the public and other interested parties during the 60-day comment period that follows the publication. Information about how to comment on the proposal can be found here.
The full list of standards that OSHA is seeking comment on include:
- Ventilation standard in construction (1926.57)
- Criteria for personal protective equipment standard in construction (1926.95)
- Mechanical paint removers standard in shipyards (1915.34)
- Ventilation and protection in welding, cutting and heating in shipyards (1915.51)
- Hand and body protection standard in shipyards (1915.157)
- Confined and enclosed spaces standards in shipyards (Part 1915 Subpart B)
- Ventilation standard in general industry for exhaust ventilation and housekeeping (1910.94(a)(4), (a)(7))1
- Respiratory Protection standard in general industry (1910.134)1,2
- Hazard communication standard in general industry (1910.1200)1,2
According to OSHA, beryllium is a lightweight but strong metal used in many industries, including aerospace, medical, electronics, defense, and telecommunications. Workers that perform abrasive blasting in construction and shipyards may also be exposed to beryllium. But beryllium is highly toxic, and workers who inhale it are at a higher risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer. An estimated 100 people die from chronic beryllium disease each year.
Image source: NASA