OSHA has recently proposed a new regulation that would help protect workers who are exposed to beryllium. The chemical, which is released through dust, fumes, mist and in other forms, can cause a fatal respiratory disease in those who are exposed. Annually, 35,000 workers are exposed to the chemical and 245 new cases of illnesses related to beryllium exposure arise each year. Such illnesses include lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease- a condition causing inflammation and scarring of the lungs. Officials estimate that implementing new regulations would prevent 100 deaths and 50 new illness cases annually.
The new regulation would lower the allowed exposure limit from 2.0 to .2 micrograms per cubic meter of air- 1/10th the current level. The maximum amount of exposure time legally allowed is currently 8 hours. Additionally, workers would be medically monitored to assess whether they exhibited early signs of beryllium related illness.
Beryllium, a naturally occurring element, is commonly found in the aerospace and electronics industries. Additionally, it is also used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. In fact, the Labor Department compensated 2,500 nuclear workers who were exposed to beryllium at a total cost of $500 million, to date. The chemical can also be found in dental lab work and foundry operations. The proposed regulation would not apply to those who work in an industry in which beryllium is found in raw materials, such as at coal burning power plants, or aluminum producing facilities.
The proposed rule is open for public comment between August 7, 2015 and November 9, 2015. To read the proposed rule, click here.
Exposure to beryllium, or any other toxic chemical in the workplace can cause serious health conditions. If you have suffered adverse health effects from being subjected to exposure to a dangerous substance or condition at work, contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies. Call The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866) 557-7500.