Beryllium is a chemical element that is fairly rare in nature, but used in a variety of industries. Specifically, it is used as an alloying agent when producing products such as springs, spot-welding electrodes, electrical contacts, and much more. This element has long been known to present health and safety issues for those who work with it if proper precautions are not taken.
Exposure to beryllium has been known to cause a sensitization immune response, and can also cause chronic beryllium disease, among other things. To help protect workers, OSHA has had limits in place regarding how much exposure someone can experience over time. Data has suggested, however, that the current exposure limits were too permissive, which is why OSHA has created new rules on beryllium exposure, which were originally slated to take effect on January 9th of this year.
To help give industries more time to prepare for the changes, they delayed the implementation of the rule until March 21st, and then again until May 20th, where it currently stands. Most people expect that the May 20th deadline will remain in place, and the final rules will take effect at that time, so industries need to be taking proactive steps now to ensure their employees are not exposed to levels of beryllium greater than what is set forth in the ruling.
A notice published in the March 21st Federal Register said, “The additional time will allow OSHA the opportunity for further review of the new Beryllium Final Rule, including review of concerns that commenters raised, and is consistent with the memorandum of January 20, 2017 from the Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, entitled ‘Regulatory Freeze Pending Review.’”
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To put it simply, with the change in presidential administration, there is more of a focus to reduce the impact of federal regulations on industries. Given that there is so much data showing the dangers of beryllium exposure, however, this final rule is almost certain to go through. Many beryllium using industries are also already operating in accordance with the new rules, and more are moving in that direction all the time, so the overall impact of the change shouldn’t be considered overly burdensome.