OSHA is proposing to dramatically lower its decades-old permissible exposure limit for beryllium to one-tenth of the current level.
The current PEL for the metal is 2.0 micrograms of respirable beryllium per cubic meter of air. The agency’s proposal would set the PEL at 0.2 µg/m3. An official notice of proposed rulemaking was published Aug. 7.
The rule is a “long overdue step” toward better protecting workers from harmful beryllium exposures, OSHA administrator David Michaels said during an Aug. 6 press conference.
Beryllium exposure has been linked to lung cancer, and workers who inhale beryllium particles are at risk of developing chronic beryllium disease, a potentially fatal and incurable lung condition. According to OSHA, the new rule would protect about 35,000 general-industry workers, as well as prevent nearly 50 serious illnesses and 100 deaths from chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer each year.
OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would cost workplaces about $37 million per year but would result in $575 million in annual benefits for the next 60 years.
Other requirements in the proposed rule include:
- Medical surveillance
- Limiting access to high-exposure areas to essential personnel
- Providing employees with personal protective equipment and additional training