On August 5, 2015, OSHA announced a proposed rule that would lower the permissible exposure limit for beryllium and lower workplace exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds. The current PEL for beryllium is 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, and was established by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948 and adopted by OSHA in 1971.
OSHA’s proposed standard would reduce the PEL to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, as well as lower the existing ceiling concentration of 5.0 micrograms per cubic meter to a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter. The revised standard would require additional worker protection measures such as personal protective equipment, medical exams, medical surveillance, training, and recordkeeping. A collaboration between industry and labor has resulted in this proposed standard, with all parties recognizing the need to reduce workplace exposure to beryllium. When workers become sensitized to beryllium, which can occur from inhalation or skin contact, there is a risk of developing chronic beryllium disease (CBD). CBD is a debilitating illness that there is no known cure for. Exposed workers are also at an increased risk for developing lung cancer.
The proposed rule was published in the August 7, 2015 issue of the Federal Register. The comment period for this proposed rule ends on November 5, 2015.