A new OSHA regulation scheduled to begin on March 10 will have an impact on the construction industry as a whole. New standards of beryllium exposure take effect across the country, with companies having three years to fully comply.
Beryllium is used in lightweight metal alloys to keep weight minimal while increasing the metal’s strength. It’s a common material in the aerospace industry, metal and ceramic work, foundries and more. Construction workers sometimes use beryllium-containing slag while sandblasting and can inhale the material onsite.
There are four key elements to the new ruling from OSHA:
- Reducing the permissible exposure limit to beryllium
- Establishing a short term exposure limit
- Requiring employers to provide a controlled ventilation system or respirators to limit exposure
- Requiring employers to provide medical exams for anyone exposed to beryllium
- Beryllium dangers
Many construction companies are already careful with the substance, as it’s been limited for some time, just not to this effect. While implementation will be careful and costly for employers, it will reduce exposure to a dangerous chemical. OSHA estimates that beryllium exposure affects 62,000 workers annually and that the new restrictions will save 94 lives each year.
Compliance and employee support
Employers have already been limiting exposure, but the new regulations create increase worker safety and long-term effects. Any construction outfit that uses the material should emphasize ventilation and work practice controls, along with proper protective clothing.
Lung disease and chronic berylliosis are serious diseases with often-deadly results. When workers contract either, it’s important to provide adequate medical care and take measures to reduce exposure for all staff. Even small doses of the material can have lasting consequences so it’s important to seek legal counsel when a worker shows signs of illness. Your workers’ well-being is a priority that starts with protection.