The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a final rule on Beryllium.
The new rule reduces the Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over eight hours. Above that level, employers must take steps to reduce the airborne concentration of beryllium. The rule requires additional protections, including personal protective equipment, medical exams and other medical surveillance and training. It also establishes a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter over a 15-minute sampling period.
Beryllium is used in the aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunication, medical and defense industries, but it is highly toxic when beryllium-containing materials are processed thus releasing beryllium dust, fumes or mist into the air.
The new rule will protect workers in a broad range of industries and is expected to save the lives of 94 workers from beryllium-related diseases annually, and prevent 46 new cases of beryllium-related diseases per year when fully implemented. According to the new rule, employers have one year to implement most of its provisions and two years to provide required changing rooms and showers and three years to implement engineering controls.