The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new beryllium standard recently went into effect. Yesterday we addressed the new standard for general industry and the looming compliance dates. Today we offer general tips for controlling beryllium exposure in your workplace, and tomorrow we will look at exposure control recommendations related to specific activities.
Even before compliance with the new beryllium standard is required, as an environment, health and safety (EHS) manager, you can help your employees avoid beryllium exposure by:
- Planning jobs to minimize the number of people in work areas where beryllium is present; and
- Enclosing processes where possible,
General training tips to help your employees avoid exposure to beryllium include:
- Check safety data sheets before starting every job;
- Use good ventilation;
- Use vacuum systems for machining operations;
- Wear a respirator and other personal protective equipment to work with or around beryllium;
- Clean equipment, working surfaces, and floors with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums, not compressed air;
- Avoid leaving dust on the floor after wet cleaning;
- Avoid long vacuum hoses or looping vacuum hoses;
- Keep vacuum system operational during machining operations;
- Keep street clothing in clean areas, removed from potential beryllium contact;
- Wipe shoes before leaving the beryllium work area;
- Remove work clothing and shoes in the workplace, and dispose of them properly; and
- Shower and change into street clothes before leaving the workplace.
What to Do if You Are Exposed to Beryllium
Your workers can be exposed to beryllium through inhalation, skin, eyes, and ingestion. Here are some tips in case of exposure. In all cases, medical attention should be sought. Here are some tips for workers to recognize symptoms and provide some initial first aid.
Inhalation: Symptoms of beryllium inhalation include coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, and weakness. Symptoms may be delayed, which is one reason OSHA’s new beryllium standard requires medical surveillance for workers under certain conditions. Initial first aid for inhalation should include fresh air and rest.
Skin: The main symptom of dermal exposure to beryllium is redness. Initial first aid for dermal exposure is removing contaminated clothes and washing with soap and plenty of water or showering. Employers are required to provide changing rooms and showers for employees who work with or around beryllium by March 11, 2019.
Eyes: The symptoms of eye exposure to beryllium are redness and pain. Initial first aid includes removing contacts if easily possible and rinsing with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes.
Ingestion: The easiest ways to prevent ingestion of beryllium is to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking while working around it and washing hands before eating. Initial first aid if beryllium is ingested is rinsing your mouth. Do not induce vomiting.
Storage of Beryllium
Beryllium should be stored in areas without drains or sewer access. Keep containers tightly closed in a dry and well-ventilated place. Beryllium should be separated from strong acids, bases, chlorinated solvents, food, and feedstuff.
What to Do if There Is a Beryllium Spill
In the event of a spill, the area should be evacuated. The person(s) cleaning the spill should, at the very least, wear a respirator. If the respirator is the sole means of protection, a full-face supplied-air respirator should be used. Avoid breathing vapors, mist, or gas. Ensure adequate ventilation. Pick up and arrange disposal without creating dust. Keep in suitable, closed containers for disposal. Prevent further leakage or spillage if safe to do so. Do not let product enter drains or the environment.
Tune in to tomorrow’s Advisor for OSHA-recommended exposure control strategies for specific operations that involve beryllium.