In January of 2017, OSHA released a final rule which greatly reduced the allowable exposure to beryllium alloy, a mineral that can cause deadly lung disease. While not as commonly encountered in the construction industry as other substances that cause terrible lung diseases, like crystalline silica and asbestos, beryllium is linked to a disease called chronic beryllium disease, which kills around 100 people each year. It’s commonly found in coal slag, which is used for sandblasting. According to the New York Times, OSHA estimates that 11,500 construction workers would be affected by OSHA’s reduced exposure limit.
Recently, OSHA issued a statement that it will not enforce the new beryllium exposure limit until it determines if it will amend the rule for the construction and shipyard sectors. According to the press release, OSHA will seek comment on the rule, as the administration “has evidence that exposure in these industries is limited to a few operations and has information suggesting that requiring the ancillary provisions broadly may not improve worker protection and be redundant with overlapping protections in other standards.” The comment period began on June 27, 2017 and will end on 9/25/17. For more information on submitting a comment, follow this link on OSHA’s website.
The New York Times has discovered public record that shows the Abrasive Blasting Manufacturers Alliance, which is an industry group made up of companies that sell coal slag, has spent around $60,000 for lobbying efforts directed at OSHA since the beginning of the year. The Alliance issued a statement in June, stating that there is a major difference between beryllium alloy and beryllium, with the latter being found in abrasive blasting. The group states that there is no evidence that the mineral beryllium is linked to any illnesses, as opposed to beryllium alloy. The group also states that there are currently 27 current OSHA regulations covering abrasive blasting.