A 2017 final rule established new permissible exposure limits (PELs) of 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air (0.2 µg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) and 2.0 µg/m3 as a short-term exposure limit (STEL) determined over a sampling period of 15 minutes. It also included provisions to protect employees from exposure to beryllium, such as requirements for exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment, housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping.
Who is Covered
The rule applies to occupational exposure to beryllium in all forms, compounds, and mixtures in general industry, construction, and shipyards.
However, the rule does not apply to articles that contain beryllium that the employer does not process as well as materials that contain less than 0.1% beryllium by weight and the processes or operations that involve those materials do not create airborne beryllium exposures above the TWA PEL or STEL.
How to Comply
Employers that are covered under the rule must use engineering and work practice controls to keep exposures at or below the PELs.
- Engineering controls include using process isolation, ventilated enclosures, or local exhaust ventilation to keep beryllium from being dispersed throughout a work area.
- Examples of work practices to control beryllium exposures include keeping surfaces clean by using a HEPA-filtered vacuum or by wetting down dust before sweeping it up.
- If engineering and work practice controls cannot keep exposures at or below the PEL, employers must provide respiratory protection to affected employees.
The rule also requires employers to make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.
On May 11, 2018 OSHA began enforcement of certain requirements of the beryllium standard. For generally industry, construction and shipyards this included the permissible exposure limits. Further, in general industry enforcement began for the requirements of an exposure assessment, respiratory protection, medical surveillance and medical removal.
However, on June 1, 2018 OSHA issued a proposed rule to delay the compliance date for certain ancillary provisions of the beryllium standard for general industry until December 12, 2018. This includes:
- Beryllium work areas and regulated areas
- Written exposure control plans
- Personal protective clothing and equipment
- Hygiene areas and practices (except for changing rooms and showers)
- Communication of hazards
The delay does not impact the changing rooms and showers provisions or engineering controls as those are set to take effect in 2019 and 2020.
For the construction and shipyard industries only the TWA PEL and STEL are being enforces as OSHA looks to develop additional regulations for those industries.
2019 Requirements: Employers must provide changing rooms and showers for employees exposed to beryllium by March 11, 2019.
Showers are only required if:
- employees are or can reasonably be expected to be exposed to beryllium above the TWA PEL or STEL; AND
- the employees’ hair or body (other than hands, face and neck) could reasonably be expected to be contaminated with beryllium
2020 Requirements: Engineering controls must be implemented by March 10, 2020.
Employers must ensure that at least one of the following controls is in place for each operation in a beryllium work area that releases airborne beryllium:
- Material/process substitution.
- Isolation (full or partial ventilated enclosures).
- Local exhaust ventilation at the point of operation, material handling and/or transfer.
- Process controls such as wet methods and automation.
If controls cannot lower the airborne concentrations below the PEL, the employer must implement and maintain engineering and work practices controls to reduce the airborne concentration to the lowest feasible level and supplement these controls with respiratory protection.
Additional information on OSHA’s beryllium rule can be found at www.osha.gov/beryllium