OSHA finalizes revisions to beryllium standards for construction

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has finalized its June 27, 2017, proposal to revise construction and shipyards standards related to beryllium exposure.

OSHA proposed revoking the ancillary provisions in the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards while retaining the permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms (ug) per cubic meter and the short-term limit exposure of 2 ug per cubic meter. OSHA says it proposed the revision because its standards apply to the primary operations in which exposures to beryllium occur in construction (abrasive blasting) and shipyards (abrasive blasting and welding), and that those other standards might adequately protect workers from exposure to beryllium in those operations.

In the final rule, published on Sept. 30, OSHA does not implement the proposal to revoke all of the standards’ ancillary provisions. The agency says it has determined there is not complete overlap in protections between the standards’ ancillary provisions and other OSHA standards. “To the extent there is overlap between specific requirements within the ancillary provisions and other OSHA standards, OSHA will account for that overlap in the new proposal,” the final rule says.

The final rule does, however, extend the compliance dates for the ancillary provisions to September 2020 to account for its new proposal to revise or remove specific provisions. It also maintains enforcement of the permissible exposure limit.

In a forthcoming rulemaking, OSHA will publish a proposal to amend the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards by more appropriately tailoring the requirements of the standards to the exposures in these industries. The proposed changes would maintain safety and health protections for workers, facilitate compliance with the standards and increase cost savings, OSHA says.

“OSHA’s decision to delay compliance obligations for the ancillary provisions reflects the agency’s determination that it would be unreasonable to expect employers to comply by the dates in the 2017 final rule given the agency’s decisions to retain all ancillary provisions in this final rule and proceed with a separate rulemaking to propose different amendments to the standards. The uncertainty inherent in this regulatory posture makes additional time essential,” the final rule says. “Requiring compliance with the 2017 final rule, or even requiring employers to expend time and money to determine how to comply with the 2017 final rule, would make little sense when the standards may ultimately be amended via the forthcoming rulemaking.”