Chemicals, Regulatory Developments

OSHA Wants to Scale Back Coverage of Beryllium Rules

OSHA proposed on Friday, June 23 to exclude construction and shipbuilding from a final rule issued on January 9, 2017 reducing workers’ exposure to beryllium. The lightweight metal is used primarily in foundry and smelting, composites manufacturing, dental lab work, among other applications. Under the proposal only general industry workplaces would be subject to the January changes, which reduce exposure from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, to 0.2 micrograms over an eight-hour period. The rule was signed into law during the last days of the Obama administration.

OSHA explained the reduction in scope in a press release that stated, “Representatives of the shipyard and construction industries, as well as members of Congress, raised concerns that they had not had a meaningful opportunity to comment on the rule for those industries and the public.” As well, OSHA says it has evidence that exposure in shipyard and construction is limited to a few operations, and that requiring ancillary provisions may not improve worker protection and may overlap with protections in other standards. Under the proposal, exposures limits would remain at the previous level for shipyard and construction workplaces.

The safety agency says it will not enforce the January 9, 2017 construction and shipyard standards without further notice while determining whether to amend the rule.

Last week the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs completed its review of the rule. A revision in the standard has been strongly criticized by labor interests. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka commented, “More working people will die if the Trump administration rolls back OSHA’s beryllium rule. It also will mark the first time in history for the government to roll back worker safety protections against a cancer-causing toxin.”