OSHA and the Beryllium Standard Delay

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must immediately complete its review of a proposed beryllium standard and allow the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to move forward with its public comment period.

That’s according to Public Citizen.


On September 4, 2014, OMB received a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor to allow OSHA to update its beryllium standard. As detailed in Executive Order 12866, OMB is required to complete its review within 90 days of receiving a proposed rule, with the option for a 30-day extension if needed.

Eight months have passed since OMB received the proposal.

“Protections against exposure to beryllium allotted to workers are far too weak, especially in the construction industry, where an estimated 23,000 construction workers come into contact with beryllium every day while performing open-air blasting,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

High dust concentrations on construction sites can lead to elevated beryllium levels. OSHA has said that 70 percent of all worksites where abrasive blasting is performed – such as construction sites and ship-building yards – have detectable beryllium levels with a mean level of 3.7 micrograms per cubic meter of air and a median level of 0.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

While some workers are protected from high dust levels by air respirators and protective clothing, many workers still are exposed to the harmful effects of beryllium because their employers do not provide these protections.

Realizing this, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) enacted an exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour work day, in all its facilities in April 2000.

In 2001, Public Citizen petitioned OSHA to follow the DOE’s lead and lower the exposure limit for beryllium by 90 percent, from its current threshold of 2.0 micrograms to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

OSHA denied the petition even though it acknowledged in September 1999 that its “permissible exposure limits for beryllium in the workplace now appear to be too high to prevent chronic beryllium disease.”

In 2014, Public Citizen requested that the updated rule include better exposure monitoring, broader regulated areas, enhanced medical surveillance and clearer verification of compliance with the standard.

“For nearly 13 years, OSHA has been dragging its feet on updating its beryllium standard,” said Wrightson. “It is past time that the tens of thousands of workers exposed to beryllium on a daily basis get the protections they deserve. OMB must immediately complete its review of the proposed beryllium standard and allow OSHA to move forward with its public comment period.”

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