SEMA eNews Vol. 20, No. 2, January 12, 2017

OSHA Sets Lower Exposure Limits for Beryllium

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set significantly lower exposure limits for beryllium and related compounds. The new limit for beryllium is 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter—just one-tenth the previous level. Beryllium is a naturally occurring element that has many beneficial attributes and widespread applications. It is one-third lighter than aluminum, yet stiffer than steel; resistant to fatigue and corrosion; and recyclable. In the auto industry, 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. OSHA estimates that the new standard will apply to about 62,000 workers and potentially prevent nearly 100 deaths and 50 serious illnesses each year.

The new rule takes effect March 10, 2017, but industry has one year to implement most of the changes, such as creating restricted beryllium work areas and using respirators and protective clothing sufficient to meet the new limits. 

Additional information may be found at www.osha.gov/beryllium.

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