The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it is pushing back the effective date of a beryllium safety rule “for further review and consideration.” The delay is part of a sweeping anti-regulation stance the Trump Administration has assumed, ordering the review of any new or pending regulations adopted before Trump took office.
The new federal beryllium rule, which was supposed to take effect March 21, aims to protect workers in a number of manufacturing industries aims by dramatically reducing workplace exposures to beryllium, a strong, lightweight metal that can cause fatal lung cancer and other serious lung disease.
In August 2016, OSHA first proposed lowering the beryllium exposure limit 90 percent from 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over eight hours to 0.2 micrograms. However, some industry groups argued that even the lower limit would leave tens of thousands of workers in some industries to be exposed to the potentially deadly metal.
Workers in the maritime and construction industries, along with public interest groups such as Public Citizen, urged OSHA to lower the exposure limit even further to 0.1 micrograms per cubic meter of air without exclusions.
Beryllium is an element used in a number of industries, including aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunications, medical, defense, construction, and ship building. The federal government’s new beryllium standards, announced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Jan. 6, require employers to take additional, practical measures to protect workers from beryllium exposures.
Workers who inhale airborne beryllium may develop a lung condition called chronic beryllium disease (CBD) and lung cancer.
OSHA estimates that its proposed 0.2-microgram limit would prevent 96 premature deaths each year and prevent 50 new cases of CBD per year, once the full effects of the rule are implemented.
OSHA says the new rule will be delayed until May 20, 2017, as part of Trump’s “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” issued on Jan. 20. Considering that much of the new administration’s policies are geared toward protecting business interests over worker health and well-being, there is a chance that OSHA will scrap the rule and stick with the higher exposure limit.