OSHA Seeks Feedback on Proposal to Revoke Certain Provisions of Beryllium Rule Applicable to the Construction and Shipyard Sectors

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reconsidering portions of a final rule setting standards for occupational exposure to beryllium. The rule, published January 9, 2017, was initially set to take effect on March 10, 2017. Following President Trump's January 20, 2017 memorandum directing agencies to temporarily postpone the effective dates of recent rules to give the new administration a chance to review them, OSHA first announced it would postpone the effective date of the beryllium rule until March 21, 2017, and then until May 20, 2017.

The final rule created three separate standards applicable to general industry, construction sites, and shipyards. The final rule established new permissible exposure limits (PEL) to beryllium, and a new short-term exposure limit (STEL). It also included "ancillary" requirements to reduce occupational exposure, including "requirements for exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment, housekeeping, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping similar to those found in other OSHA health standards." In a notice and request for comments to be published in the June 27, 2017 edition of the Federal Register, OSHA now proposes to revoke the rule's ancillary provisions for the construction and shipyard sectors, but to keep the new lower PEL of 0.2 μg/m3 and the STEL of 2.0 μg/m3 for each sector.

According to the agency,

OSHA has a number of standards already applicable to these operations, including ventilation (29 CFR 1926.57) and mechanical paint removers (29 CFR 1915.34). In addition, this proposal provides stakeholders with an additional opportunity to offer comments on the protections needed for workers exposed to beryllium in the construction and shipyard sectors, including the need for the ancillary provisions in the January 9, 2017 construction and shipyard beryllium standards. This will give OSHA additional information as it further considers the January 9, 2017 final rule’s provisions for these sectors.

The agency will delay enforcement of the rule applicable to the shipyard and construction industries while the new rulemaking is being considered. This delay will not, however, impact the standard applicable to general industry.

To help it craft a new rule, OSHA is soliciting comments from stakeholders. Although the public may comment on any matter related to the rule, the agency is particularly interested in input regarding:

  • Whether OSHA should keep any of the ancillary provisions of the January 9, 2017 final rule for construction and shipyards?
  • If OSHA keeps the medical surveillance requirements for construction and shipyards outlined in the final rule, but revokes the other ancillary provisions, what would be the incremental benefit, if any?
  • Alternatively, should OSHA keep some of the medical surveillance requirements for construction and shipyards but not others?
  • Should the compliance dates of the January 9, 2017 final rule be delayed? OSHA is considering extending the compliance dates by a year for the construction and shipyard standards. According to OSHA, this delay would give affected employers additional time to comply, which "could be warranted by the uncertainty created by this proposal."

Comments on the proposal are due 60 days from the notice's publication in the Federal Register. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.