OSHA Update—Proposed Delay for New Beryllium Rule Effective Date

01 March 2017 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog

On March 1, 2017, the United States Department of Labor proposed another delay to the effective date of Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) new beryllium rule.  The proposed delay is again in conjunction with the White House’s Regulatory Freeze Pending Review Memorandum (the “Memorandum”).  If implemented, it will make the rule’s new effective date May 20, 2017.

Beryllium is a strong, but light, element often used to make cell phones, missiles, and aircraft.  Beryllium and related compounds are most commonly used in the aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunication, medical, and defense industries.  Based on various studies and information, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified beryllium as carcinogenic.  OSHA states that if inhaled or touched, beryllium is highly toxic and poses an increased risk of chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer.

With that in mind, OSHA seeks in the new rule to reduce the permissible exposure limit for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over eight hours.  It further seeks to reduce the short-term exposure limit to 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a sampling period of 15 minutes.  Of course, in addition to exposure reduction measures, OSHA’s rule includes new requirements for exposure assessment, methods of control, respiratory protection, PPE, housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazcom, and recordkeeping.  The new rule separately encompasses the general industry, shipyards, and construction standards.

OSHA originally published the beryllium rule on January 9, 2017, with an effective date of March 10, 2017.   In response to the Memorandum, the effective date was delayed to March 21, 2017, to allow further review and consideration.  During that timeframe, OSHA conducted a short, 10-day comment period.  OSHA thereafter “preliminarily determined” that another delay was appropriate for the vague “purpose of further reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy raised” by the new rule.

OSHA is accepting comments about the additional proposed extension until March 13, 2017.  But employers subject to the beryllium rule should keep in mind that the proposed extension will not immediately affect compliance dates.  Employers with questions about compliance with or enforcement of the new rule should reach out to an attorney knowledgeable about OSHA and its regulations.

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