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Protecting Workers from Beryllium Exposure – New Safety Standards by OSHA

Workers Compensation AttorneyEmployers are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of workers at the workplace, which includes keeping them safe from beryllium exposure. It is a material commonly used in telecommunication, energy, electrics, aerospace, defense, construction, and medical industries. Beryllium has been classified as a Class A carcinogen and poses an elevated risk to workers developing lung cancer or chronic beryllium disease (CBD).

A worker can catch beryllium-related diseases if they inhale dust or fumes containing beryllium or its compounds. The disease begins affecting lung tissue and gives rise to an allergic lung response causing inflammation in the body. The symptoms of CBD are weakness, cough, fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, and shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing. This disease has been found to be progressive and chronic.

In January 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put forward a set of new standards for beryllium exposure to help in keeping workers safe from developing life threatening diseases. If you are an employer, it is extremely important for you to understand why it is necessary for you to comply with this new OSHA standard.

How the OSHA Standard is Affecting Employers

Every year, approximately 35,000 workers are affected by beryllium in about 4,100 industries in the US, according to OSHA. While the highest risk of exposure is at the workplace, workers can also be exposed to this toxic material through contaminated vehicles and clothing, which can further lead to affecting the general public and family members. The highest rate of exposure to beryllium has been found in industries engaged in machining and fabrication, alloy production, manufacturing and recycling.

OSHA has estimated that when the new standard will be fully implemented, it will save about 94 workers per year that are reported to have died from beryllium-related diseases. Moreover, it has been also anticipated that it will prevent 46 new cases of CBD annually, which is a significant figure.

How the New OSHA Rule will keep Workers Safe

  • The Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) for beryllium has been set to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) of air. This exposure level has been average for over eight hours, which means the short-term PEL is 2.0 µg/m3 within a 15-minute period. Employers must enforce ways to control excessive amounts of beryllium from being released into the air when employees have the capacity to breathe it in.
  • Employers will be required to provide essential respiratory protection equipment as well as protective clothing, especially for areas with high volumes of this carcinogenic material.
  • Medical examinations will be conducted on workers who have been exposed to this material. If there are any health concerns found, employers are required to take stringent measures to reduce the exposure of that person to beryllium.
  • Workers will be provided with training specific to beryllium exposure, and employers should create and enforce control plans.

Employers are required to adhere with most of the standards by March 12, 2018, and fully enforce them by March 2020.

For more information on how the new OSHA standard for beryllium exposure can affect you legally, you should talk to an experienced attorney. Contact Fisk & Monteleone LTD. today at 815-209-9030 to schedule a free case consultation with one of our reliable and knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers.