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OSHA’s Final Rule on Beryllium Cuts the 8-Hour PEL by 90%

January 26, 2017

UPDATED: The effective date for this rule is now May 20, 2017. The compliance dates have not changed.

Less than a year after the new silica dust standard, OSHA has issued a final rule on beryllium exposure. The new standard cuts the 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to one-tenth of the previous limit, from 2.0 micrograms/m3 to 0.2 micrograms/m3. It also sets the 15-minute short-term exposure limit (STEL) to 2.0 micrograms/m3.

There are three separate standards: one for general industry, one for shipyards, and one for construction. The exposure limits for all three standards are the same.

Beryllium is a metal used in many industries because it’s strong, lightweight, and a good conductor of heat and electricity. Exposure can lead to both acute and chronic lung disease.

According to OSHA, about 62,000 U.S. workers are potentially exposed to beryllium. Family members of workers can also be exposed via contaminated work clothing and vehicles.

Here are the main industries and occupations where workers may be exposed to beryllium.

Industries Occupations
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Ceramic manufacturing
  • Defense
  • Dental labs
  • Electronics
  • Energy
  • Medicine
  • Nuclear energy
  • Sporting goods
  • Telecommunications
  • Primary beryllium production workers
  • Workers processing beryllium metal/alloys/composites
    • Foundry workers
    • Furnace tenders
    • Machine operators
    • Machinists
    • Metal fabricators
    • Welders
    • Dental technicians
  • Secondary smelting and refining
  • Abrasive blasters

Beryllium is also a dust explosion hazard.

The final rule was published on January 6 and will go into effect on May 20, 2017. Companies will have one year after the effective date to comply with most of the obligations. The only exceptions are change rooms and showers (two years) and engineering controls (three years).

Over the next weeks and months, we’ll be digging into the new rule to provide more information about the engineering controls and housekeeping practices that will help you stay safe and compliant. Subscribe to our newsletter on the right sidebar of this page to ensure you never miss an update.

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