OSHA has reduced the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for beryllium from 2 μg/m3 to 0.2 μg/m3. The Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL) for beryllium has also been reduced from 5 μg/m3 (previously a Ceiling Limit) to 2 μg/m3. Both of the new exposure limits become effective on March 21, 2017, which was extended from March 10, 2017. Employers in general industry have until March 12, 2018 to become compliant with most of the requirements of the new rule, which is when it becomes enforceable by OSHA. The rule does give extended time for some of the provisions to be implemented, such as the requirements for some employers to have change rooms and showers for employees, and some of the required engineering controls.
Compliance with the reduced beryllium PEL is expected to reduce the risk of developing/dying from Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) and lung cancer. Some of the engineering controls to be used in order to obtain compliance include isolating the process, installing of ventilated enclosures, and using local exhaust ventilation. Employers should also evaluate employees work practices to control airborne and dermal exposure to beryllium, which may include using HEPA-filtered vacuums to keep work surfaces as free from beryllium as possible, and no longer dry sweeping dust/debris containing beryllium. In time, with compliance to the new rule, OSHA expects that 90 lives will be saved from diseases related to beryllium exposure per year, and 46 new cases of CBD will be avoided per year.
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