OSHA’s Revised Beryllium Standard for Construction and Shipyard Sectors Addresses ABC’s Concerns

On Aug. 31, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule amending its standards for occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds in the construction and shipyard sectors. ABC and other construction organizations previously filed a settlement with the agency to effectively narrow the scope of the Obama administration’s beryllium final rule, which would have applied a comprehensive, burdensome set of requirements related to beryllium on all construction employers.

As part of the settlement, filed in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 25, OSHA agreed to issue an FAQ that makes clear that for normal construction operations, exposures to common construction materials will typically not be covered by the rule. The FAQ states, “exposure to rock, soil, concrete and brick at the typical construction site will not result in beryllium exposure above the action level under foreseeable conditions.” and thus, will  not be covered by the rule. This outcome addresses the concerns of ABC, the National Association of Home Builders and the Mason Contractors Association of America and provides certainty for contractors in how they approach and prioritize their safety and health programs.

According to a DOL news release, the final rule, officially titled Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds in Construction and Shipyard Sectors, amends the standard’s sections on methods of compliance, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing and equipment, medical surveillance, recordkeeping and more. Additionally, the language included in OSHA’s FAQ is part of the new final rule’s preamble.

The final standards will affect roughly 12,000 workers employed in nearly 2,800 establishments in the construction and shipyard industries and are estimated to yield $2.5 million in total annualized cost savings to employers.

The final rule will go into effect on Sept. 30, 2020. Additional  information on the rulemaking can be found on the DOL website.

As part of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, ABC has been heavily involved in OSHA’s rulemaking efforts over the last several years in attempt to limit the application of the original rule within the construction industry. Specifically, on Nov. 7, 2019, CISC submitted comments to OSHA on a beryllium proposed rule that maintained the lower eight-hour permissible exposure limit and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit and made minor changes to the ancillary provisions of the beryllium standard that are tailored for the construction industry. Additionally, members of CISC participated in the informal public hearing on the rule held by the agency in 2019.

Several members of the CISC, which include ABC, NAHB and MCAA, also filed suit against OSHA in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the original Obama administration’s rule and an interim Trump administration rule.

Read more about ABC’s actions in the beryllium regulatory process in Newsline.