SEMA eNews Vol. 18, No. 33, August 13, 2015

OSHA Seeks Lower Exposure Limits for Beryllium

By SEMA Washington, D.C, Staff

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed significantly lower exposure limits for beryllium and related compounds. The new limit for beryllium would be 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, just one-tenth the current level. Beryllium is a naturally occurring element that has many beneficial attributes and widespread applications. It is one-third lighter than aluminium yet stiffer than steel, resistant to fatigue and corrosion, and recyclable. Beryllium is frequently used in airbag, power-steering, anti-lock braking and fuel-injection systems.

OSHA believes a small percentage of workers exposed to the chemical may develop chronic beryllium lung disease. Most worker exposure is associated with foundry and smelting operations, machining, beryllium oxide ceramics and composite manufacturing. If approved, OSHA estimates that the new standard would apply to about 35,000 workers and potentially prevent around 100 deaths and 50 serious illnesses each year.

The industry would be required to implement exposure control methods (restricted beryllium work areas, respirators, protective clothing, etc.) to meet the new limits.

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org.

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