By Brad Sant, senior vice president of safety & education, ARTBA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing to revise the standards for occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds in the construction and shipyards industries. The rule dates to the Obama administration and has already undergone several revisions and compliance postponements.

The latest public comment period ends Nov. 7. The agency also will hold an informal public hearing beginning 9:30 a.m., Dec. 3, at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. See more details about both in OSHA’s Oct. 8 notice in the Federal Register. ARTBA member firms are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel.

ARTBA is studying the latest proposal and will consult with industry partners about offering comments.

Beryllium is a grey metal that is stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum. It has great strength-to-weight characteristics, a high melting point, excellent thermal stability and conductivity. Though it is not used in construction per se, it can be released in trace amounts when welding certain metals (often an alloy with copper, aluminum, magnesium, or nickel) and when abrasive blasting using coal slag.  Some producers of coal and copper slag abrasives have begun including beryllium on their product Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Beryllium is a human carcinogen that can affect the respiratory system.