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OSHA Announces Beryllium Rule Amendment

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced in an emailed press release late last week the finalizing of its June 2017 proposal to revise the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards.

OSHA said in the final rule, which was published Sept. 30, that the agency did not roll out the proposal in order to revoke all ancillary provisions, but has extended compliance dates to September 2020 to account for the revising or removal of certain provisions.

Recent Rulemaking

According to Reuters, the recently released bulletin indicates that protections for construction and shipyard industries will remain in place, but that the administration will develop a proposal to further adjust the rule requirements for both industries. Protections in question were included in a late Obama-era rule to help limit worker exposure to beryllium.

freeman98589 / Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced in an emailed press release late last week the finalizing of its June 2017 proposal to revise the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards.

Every year, roughly 11,500 shipyard and construction workers are exposed to beryllium dust. The new provisions were created in the hope that four lives could be saved every year, though these measures will cost each industry $1,000 a worker for the same time period. Reuters also went on to report that critics have voiced opposition to the measures, noting that workers were already protected and that the additional costs were unfair.

In the June 2017 proposed rule, the measure looked to cut ancillary provisions, including medical surveillance, written exposure control plans and personal protective equipment, among other matters.

“OSHA finds that other OSHA standards do not duplicate the requirements of the ancillary provisions in the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards in their entirety,” OSHA wrote.

“Thus revoking all of the ancillary provisions and leaving only the PEL and STEL would be inconsistent with OSHA's statutory mandate to protect workers from the demonstrated significant risks of material impairment of health resulting from exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds.”

OSHA is also still enforcing the permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, along with the short-term exposure limit of 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, reported Safety+Health Magazine.

“In a forthcoming rulemaking, OSHA will publish a proposal to amend the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards by more appropriately tailoring the requirements of the standards to the exposures in these industries,” the agency writes.

“The proposed changes would maintain safety and health protections for workers, facilitate compliance with the standards and increase cost savings.”


Tagged categories: Beryllium; Government; Health & Safety; NA; North America; OSHA; Regulations

Comment from Richard Hoffmann, P.E., (10/1/2019, 9:44 AM)

Very interesting. My question is, as a metallurgist - where is beryllium used in coatings ? I am used to beryllium as a alloy, but not in coatings. I am looking for fundamental information. Thanks Dick hoffmann

Comment from james henderson, (10/1/2019, 12:24 PM)

How can you quote Reuters and leave out the following pertinent sentence right in the middle of their reporting " The material also can be found in COAL SLAG, a component of some of the abrasive powders used in construction and shipyard work. Maybe you should go back and correct the quote.

Comment from Nathan Bjornson, (10/2/2019, 2:11 AM)

As an alternative to silica sand, that most think is better and safer, some companies use coal slag which contains beryllium. Make no mistake, no dust is good to breathe, you trade one hazard for another. There are other alternatives and methods of surface preparation that are available.

Comment from Dominic DeAngelo, (10/2/2019, 10:19 PM)

All abrasive media contains trace levels of Beryllium. This has been documented. Unfortunately, OSHA continues to reference coal slag as an example due to the continuing war on coal. There has not been a single case of Be illness in the over 80 year history of abrasive blasting. We are fighting this attempt at unnecessary overregulation of our industry.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/3/2019, 9:35 AM)

Dominic - is there some solid research on what Be levels and range of levels are present in various blast media? Ideally there would be an exposure factor based on how much media dust is typically generated by blasting with that media. For example, even if there is Be in steel grit, it's a lot less exposure risk than a blast media which shatters on impact and creates much more dust. Coal slag is on the "creates lots of dust" end of the spectrum, so that may be a reason it's being focused on. I found a small study which had coal slag with a mere 4PPM of Be used, resulting in airborne exposure levels of 9.5 µg/m3. However, that's just a single use with a single slag source.

Comment from Dominic DeAngelo, (10/3/2019, 11:38 PM)

Yes, we have numerous lab studies and additional data representing Be concentration levels in multiple abrasive media. Please reach out to me directly at to obtain detailed information. You can also visit for supporting info.

Comment from james henderson, (10/4/2019, 8:09 AM)

So if all abrasives have Beryllium, why does Harsco fail to list Be on its glass and iron abrasives SDS and choose only to put it on the Coal Slag SDS. I am struggling to find where any manufacturer of glass abrasives lists Be on their SDS including Harsco

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (10/4/2019, 12:15 PM)

I can understand how Be may be present *chemically* in all forms of blasting media... it's a metal found in fairly common minerals. I think part of the question being posed for media outside of slag deals with just how much of the Be is becoming airborne / respirable. As a comparable example for what is being asked: soil and natural waters contain asbestos fibres, a known carcinogen. However, the level and method of exposure to these fibres is not generally an issue, especially when compared to airborne occupational exposure (inhalation is the key exposure method and lung cancer the common carcinogenic outcome). If Be is be present in all blasting media and represents a risk, then obtaining information on how much Be is released when using the media becomes quite relevant. Just because something is present does not necessarily mean it is an immediate safety concern.

Comment from Jeff Bogran, (10/5/2019, 1:21 PM)

I believe any specific ‘heavy metal’ or other carcinogens and their presence has become moot with the ‘fugitive emissions (dust) rules sweeping corporate America. Our workers are as safe as they have ever been. Beryllium remains one of many health exposure concerns that have been taken care of by corporate risk managers, insurance companies and safety and environmental professionals.

Comment from Ric Beard, (10/5/2019, 2:27 PM)

We’ve tested and researched several abrasive media for free silica, heavy metals, beryllium, chromate, etc. and found the 10X Engineered Materials product to surpass all other currently available media. Major reduction in consumption rate as well as increased productivity.

Comment from Thomas Enger, (10/7/2019, 8:33 AM)

Abrasive Blasting creates inhalation hazards for the blaster as well as anyone within the zone of influence, no matter what kind of media you use. This industry must be keenly aware that a Supplied Air Respirator must be used by the blaster as well as appropriate respiratory protection for employees within the zone of influence. While wet blasting significantly reduces inhalation hazards it does not reduce dust exposure below the permissible exposure levels. Both dry and wet (Vapor, Dustless etc.) require a NIOSH approve Supplied Air Respirator endorsed for Abrasive Blasting. Period!

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/11/2019, 8:15 AM)

Thomas, I agree on having a Supplied Air Respirator - though choosing blast media which produces less dust is a good additional engineering control to also implement - and makes it easier for your blaster to see what they're blasting!

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