OSHA has clarified its January 9, 2017 occupational health standard on beryllium. On May 4, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published clarifying amendments in a direct final rule (DFR) for general industry with respect to the definitions of “Beryllium Work Area” (BWA) and “emergency,” and the meaning of the terms “dermal contact” and “beryllium concentration.” The amendments also clarify key provisions with respect to recycling and disposal and with respect to dermal skin exposure to trace amounts of beryllium.[1]

The amendments more clearly delineate the limits that apply to airborne exposure and dermal contact. They continue to protect employees from airborne exposures to trace amounts of beryllium, but eliminate limits for dermal contact resulting from the same. They also relax the standard’s definition of BWA to require the potential for dermal contact with beryllium as opposed to exposure to airborne beryllium at any level.

OSHA issued the DFR in response to industry challenges and stakeholder concerns that the standard would have the unintended consequence of regulating dermal contact with beryllium-contaminated material with respect to exposure to trace amounts of airborne beryllium. The DFR clarifies that dermal contact requirements in the standard should not apply in situations involving materials containing less than 0.1% beryllium by weight. The DFR limits the term “BWA” to areas involving at least 0.1% beryllium by weight. The DFR amends the definition of “emergency” to include both uncontrolled and untended release of airborne beryllium. In addition, the DFR generally amends the standard to clarify that recycling and disposal provisions apply to materials that contain at least 0.1% beryllium by weight.

The standard’s provisions regarding permissible exposure limits (PELs) (both the 8-hour time-weighted average PEL (TWA) and the short-term exposure limit (STEL)) for airborne beryllium exposure remain unchanged. Also, materials containing less than 0.1% beryllium that create airborne beryllium exposure levels at or above the TWA or STEL will continue to be regulated.

OSHA stated that it considered cost savings for small businesses of implementing the standard and does not foresee unintended significant benefit or impact to small businesses. OSHA also stated that it does not foresee any new actions by employers to implement the DFR.

The DFR will take effect on July 6 unless a significant adverse comment is received by June 6. In case such a comment is submitted, OSHA also published a notice of proposed rulemaking to adopt the DFR amendments through traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking. Comments on the proposed rule are also due on June 6.