Scott Applauds Final Rule to Protect Workers from Beryllium Exposure
WASHINGTON – Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the final rule updating the levels of permissible beryllium exposure to workers. The nearly 70-year-old old standard for workers exposed to beryllium has failed to protect workers from contracting chronic beryllium disease and cancer.
“OSHA’s beryllium rule, which took 18 years to develop, reduces permissible exposure levels by 90 percent, and is estimated to prevent 900 premature deaths due to the ravages of chronic beryllium disease and cancer over the next 10 years,” said Ranking Member Scott.
OSHA’s proposal issued in August 2015, was limited to workers in “general industry.” The final standard released today, will also cover workers in construction and shipyard workplaces. This update accounts for the fact that shipyard workers can encounter airborne beryllium from abrasive blasting with coal slag, as well as from welding rods and non-sparking tools made with beryllium.
“I also applaud OSHA for listening to the pleas of shipyard workers and the Steelworkers Union at the Newport News Shipyard by expanding the rule to cover shipyards,” Scott continued. “The protective health standard was also supported by the Newport News Shipyard and Shipbuilders Council of America, demonstrating their concern for improved workplace safety. The previous beryllium standard was obsolete the day it was issued back in 1948, and data gathered by the Navy and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health demonstrated that shipyard workers need improved protections due to the risks from abrasive blasting with beryllium-containing coal slag. I am pleased that, throughout this process, I was able elevate the concerns of shipyard workers to ensure they are protected in OSHA’s final standard.”
Today, tens of thousands workers are potentially exposed to beryllium on the job. OSHA’s updated rule will cut allowable worker exposure levels, and improve early detection of beryllium-related health effects through medical monitoring. OSHA first began work to update its beryllium standard in 1976, and renewed its present efforts in 1999. OSHA estimates the net economic benefit of this rule is $487 million per year due to fewer premature deaths and reduced incidence of chronic beryllium disease and cancer.
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