New Beryllium Rule Establishes Workplace Protective Measures to Prevent Beryllium-Related Disease

January 09, 2017

OSHA has issued a final rule to prevent chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer in American workers by limiting their exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds. The rule contains standards for general industry, construction, and shipyards.

OSHA estimates that the rule will save 94 lives from beryllium-related diseases and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year, once the effects of the rule are fully realized. The rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $560.9 million, annually.

About 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces, including approximately 11,500 construction and shipyard workers who may conduct abrasive blasting operations using slags that contain trace amounts of beryllium. The majority of workers affected by this rule are exposed in general industry operations such as beryllium metal and ceramic production, non-ferrous foundries, and fabrication of beryllium alloy products. Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to beryllium for years, using engineering and work practice controls along with personal protective clothing and equipment.

Key Provisions

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8-hours
  • Establishes a new short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period
  • Requires employers to: use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure) to limit worker exposure to beryllium; provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high-exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan; and train workers on beryllium hazards
  • Requires employers to make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease

All three standards contained in the final rule take effect on March 10, 2017, after which all three sectors have one year (March 12, 2018) to comply with most of the requirements. All sectors have two years (March 11, 2019) from the effective date to provide any required change rooms and showers and three years (March 10, 2020) from the effective date to implement engineering controls.

The final rule replaces a 40-year-old permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium that was outdated and did not adequately protect worker health. OSHA formally asked for public input on a possible beryllium rule in 2002, and rulemaking specialists visited work sites, performed risk assessments, and calculated potential impacts on small businesses. In 2012, the effort received a boost when a major beryllium manufacturer and a labor union representing many beryllium workers jointly submitted a model for a new rule.

OSHA issued a proposed rule in 2015, followed by a months-long public comment period and several days of public hearings. The final rule reflects input from industry and labor stakeholders, small business representatives, subject matter experts, and partner agencies.

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Indianapolis RCRA, DOT, and IATA Training

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New Oregon Construction Safety Rules

In 2017, employers who do construction work in Oregon will see two major changes to rules they must follow to protect their workers from falling and injuring themselves.

The changes are as follows:

  • January 1, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division’s (Oregon OSHA) 10-foot trigger height—the minimum height at which workers must be protected from falls—lowered to six feet.
  • Starting October 1, slide guards will no longer be allowed as a method of protecting workers from falling off of sloped roofs.

The new requirements mean that construction contractors will need to use some form of fall protection to prevent their employees from falling six feet or more to a lower level. Moreover, construction contractors using slide guards as a primary means of fall protection will need to use a different protection method.

Equipment is available to meet the new standards, including personal fall arrest and fall restraint systems. It is also important for construction contractors to make fall protection an essential part of an overall safety program that keeps workplaces free of hazards.

“We’ve come a long way in Oregon in reducing injuries and deaths from falls, particularly in construction, but we still have a ways to go,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “The new standards further underscore the importance of employers and employees working together to bring all of their safety tools to bear as we enter 2017.”

Falls to a lower level are the leading type of fall in Oregon’s construction industry. From 2013 to 2015, a total of 774 construction workers were injured by falling to a lower level. In 2016, general fall-protection requirements were the most-cited construction-industry rule, with 289 total violations (221 serious and 68 repeat) and initial penalties totaling $603,010.

Nationwide, the construction industry has the greatest number of both fatal and nonfatal traumatic brain injuries among workplaces, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. From 2003 to 2010, 2,210 construction workers died because of a traumatic brain injury.

The six-foot trigger-height requirement is not entirely new for Oregon construction contractors. It has been required for many years for work on established floors, mezzanines, balconies, and walkways that have unprotected sides and edges. Many large commercial construction contractors already require the use of fall protection at six feet.

More likely to be affected by the new requirements are contractors who do construction projects on single-family homes that have a ground-to-eave height between six and 10 feet, and those who do projects where slide guards are used for fall protection.

The rule changes stem from a federal OSHA decision several years ago to begin enforcing its existing fall protection requirements in residential construction. As a result, federal OSHA advised Oregon OSHA that the Oregon rules no longer met the requirement of both state and federal law and that the Oregon rules must be at least as effective as the comparable federal requirements.

In drafting changes to existing rules during the summer of 2015, Oregon OSHA took input from an advisory group of leaders in the commercial and residential construction sectors. Following those meetings, Oregon OSHA formally proposed changes to the rule and accepted public comment at five hearings held throughout the state in January 2016.

Oregon OSHA’s technical staff can answer questions to help employers understand how to apply rules to their workplace:

Phone: 503-378-3272​
Toll-free in Oregon: 800-922-2689
Email: tech.web@oregon.gov
Online contact form
Employers may also contact Oregon OSHA’s no-cost consultation services for help with safety and health programs:

Toll-free in Oregon: 800-922-2689
Field offices
Email: consult.web@oregon.gov

Fact sheet about the fall-protection rule changes

For more information about fall protection, visit Oregon OSHA’s Fall protection topic page.

Jersey City Medical Center Worker Suffers Fatal Fall

On December 21, 2016, OSHA issued citations to Jersey City Medical Center RWJ Barnabas Health for one willful and four serious safety violations.

OSHA began its inspection on June 28, 2016, after the employer notified the Agency that a worker needed to be hospitalized after falling from a ladder as he changed an overhead ballast in a light fixture. The worker later died from his injuries on July 17, 2016.

The agency cited the willful violation because the facility required employees to change ballasts without the proper lockout/tagout training on practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment to prevent hazardous energy release, as well as other safety hazards and related unsafe practices.

The serious violations involved the medical center's failure to ensure de-energized circuits were locked out, maintain an electrical lockout/tagout program, ensure that only qualified persons worked on live circuits, provide personal protective equipment, and ensure workers did not work on live parts.

"This worker's tragic death was preventable. Jersey City Medical Center did not have basic lockout/tagout safeguards in place to prevent exposure to electrical hazards, and failed to train its maintenance workers on these safeguards. As a result, the worker sustained an electrical shock while changing the ballast, fell approximately 6 feet off a ladder and died from his injuries," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Area Office.

Proposed penalties total $174,593.

US Labor Department Sues Food Manufacturer, Owner that Terminated
Employee Who Tried to Call 911 After Co-Worker Suffered Amputation

When a co-worker severed part of his thumb in July 2014, a food processor at a beef jerky manufacturing plant acted quickly, helping him apply pressure to the wound and using her cellphone to call 911. Before responders could answer, the company's owner ordered her to hang up. Two days later, she was terminated.

Instead of calling an ambulance, John M. Bachman—owner of Lone Star Western Beef, Inc.,—collected the severed portion of the wounded worker's thumb and told a company supervisor to drive the injured employee to an urgent care clinic. The injured worker was transferred ultimately to a hospital, where doctors were unable to reattach the severed body part. In addition to her efforts to call for emergency assistance, the coworker noticed that Bachman did not clean or sanitize the area of the plant where the injury occurred fully. Later that afternoon, she discussed her concerns about the incident, cleanup, lack of appropriate personal protective equipment, and her attempt to call 911 with a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector.

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Lone Star and Bachman seeking back wages and punitive damages for the terminated employee. "Lone Star Western Beef punished an employee for seeking emergency medical care for a seriously injured co-worker. Her efforts were protected under Section 11(c) and showed basic human decency," said Richard Mendelson, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia. "No worker should have to fear retaliation from their employer for calling 911 in an emergency, or taking other action to report a workplace safety or health incident."

After she was fired, the co-worker called the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and filed a complaint alleging that Lone Star Western Beef, Inc., and John M. Bachman specifically, terminated her in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity under Occupational Safety and Health Act. The agency's investigation found that the company violated the act's anti-discrimination provision, or Section 11(c), when Bachman terminated the complainant for trying to call 911 in response to the incident.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Clarksburg Division, the suit seeks the following:

  • Enjoining Lone Star Western Beef Inc., John M. Bachman, and any officers, agents, servants, or employees from violating Section 11(c)(1) of the act
  • Directing the defendants to pay damages to the terminated worker for lost wages resulting from the termination
  • Directing the company to post a notice at its facility for 60 days stating that it will not discriminate or retaliate against employees involved in activities protected by Section 11 (c) of the act
  • Ordering all other appropriate relief including punitive damages, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and any other expense incurred due to the termination

The department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Philadelphia is litigating the case.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conducted may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. More information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

The Monroe Clinic Knowingly Exposed Workers to Asbestos

Federal investigators found a local medical clinic failed to tell maintenance workers they were being exposed to hazardous asbestos material—which the company identified in 2008—and did not provide workers with protective equipment.

An investigation by OSHA found The Monroe Clinic, Inc., violated federal workplace health standards related to dangerous asbestos. On December 21, 2016, the agency cited the clinic with one willful and 11 serious safety and health violations after its June inspection of the facility. The employer faces $261,890 in proposed penalties.

"Monroe Clinic knew its employees were working amid materials known to contain asbestos, and failed to inform them of the location of hazards and to protect them from exposure to a known carcinogen that can cause life-long health issues and possibly death," said Ann Grevenkamp, OSHA's area director in Madison. "It is imperative that employers take all known precautions to protect workers from potential exposure to any material that may contain asbestos."

Investigators found maintenance employees had disturbed asbestos while conducting maintenance tasks, repairs and installation, and removal of materials as they worked on the boiler and in crawl spaces, near ceiling tiles, and in other areas where asbestos containing materials had been identified.

Asbestos exposure occurs when workers cut, damage, or otherwise disturb asbestos-containing building materials including contact with materials that are deteriorating, releasing asbestos fibers that can be inhaled without proper protection. Asbestos can cause lung disease and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung or stomach that is nearly always fatal. Asbestos fibers also remain on clothing and transfer to other surfaces such as upholstery and carpets, creating a danger of secondary exposure for others.

In its citations, OSHA alleges that Monroe Clinic failed to:

  • Provide basic personal protective equipment such as protective clothing
  • Create a decontamination area for employees to remove protective clothing before leaving the worksite
  • Use appropriate work methods to minimize asbestos exposure, such as using wet methods to keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne and using local exhaust ventilation
  • Provide respiratory protection
  • Conduct exposure assessments
  • Provide medical surveillance to monitor potential exposure
  • Post signage on the boiler room and in other locations warning of known asbestos containing material
  • Inform workers on the location and use of hazardous chemicals in the facility

Illinois Contractor Fined $214,782 for Exposing Workers to Dangerous Falls

Federal investigators proposed penalties of $214,782 to an Illinois roofing contractor after a recent inspection at a home construction site in Troy found workers exposed to fall hazards. Statistics show falls cause four of every 10 deaths in the construction industry.

On January 3, 2017, OSHA issued four willful and two serious safety violations to Robert Barringer III which operates as Barringer Brothers Roofing after observing roofers working at heights greater than six feet without adequate fall protection on July 1, 2016.

"Robert Barringer exposed employees to fall hazards, and failed to comply with federal safety requirements to protect workers on the job putting them at serious risk of injury or worse," said Aaron Priddy, OSHA's area director in Fairview Heights. "Fall protection is required whenever employees work at heights greater than 6 feet."

Because Barringer has a history of violations, OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The agency has cited Robert Barringer III previously doing business under different variations of the name Barringer Brothers.

Inspectors also noted other hazards in July, including employees without eye protection using nail guns, and failure to initiate and maintain an accident prevention program.

OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page provides fact sheets, posters, and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.

The agency's Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. Begun in 2012, the campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for workers and train employees to use gear properly.

The agency's Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. Begun in 2012, the campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for workers, and train employees to use gear properly.

B-Way Corp. Fined $81,062 After Third Worker Suffers Amputation

For the third time since the summer of 2015, a worker with a metal container manufacturer suffered an amputation injury. In each incident, federal safety investigators found that, if the employer had complied with workplace safety standards, the injuries were preventable.

On December 27, 2016, OSHA issued B-Way Corp., one repeated and one serious safety violation, carrying proposed penalties of $81,062, following its investigation of the most recent injury. On September 10, 2016, a machine amputated a 52-year-old temporary worker's right middle finger tip when it came in contact with the machine's operating parts as he cleared a jam.

Agency investigators determined the employer installed the machine's safety guards improperly. They also found the company did not instruct workers properly in procedures to prevent machine movement during service and maintenance, a process known as lockout/tag out.

"Each year, manufacturing workers suffer hundreds of preventable injuries because employers fail to install safety guards properly and train workers in machine safety procedures," said Kathy Webb, OSHA's area director in Calumet City. "BWay Corp. needs to review its machines' operations corporate-wide immediately to ensure they have adequate and properly installed safety guards. They must also be sure that workers are using lockout/tag out procedures to prevent them from coming in contact with operating parts."

Federal investigators determined the most recent injury occurred on the same type of machine on which a 65-year-old employee suffered an amputation injury August 2015. In that case, the worker lost the tip of her right middle finger when it was caught in a stacker plate on machine. In October 2015, a 56-year old-employee suffered the loss of the tip of his right index finger when cleaning a chuck on a machine at the facility.

Recycler Fined for Fire, Explosion, and Machine Guarding Hazards

OSHA issued citations to Nemo Plastics for 21 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations. The inspection was initiated after the agency received a complaint.

Serious citations were issued for:

  • Exposing workers to explosion and fire hazards by allowing combustible dust to accumulate
  • Failure to provide employees personal protective clothing
  • Failure to implement a hazardous energy control program to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing
  • Failure to evaluate spaces such as silos to determine if they were permit-required confined spaces
  • Exposing workers to amputations hazards due to missing machine guards
  • Failure to develop a noise monitoring program

Other-than-serious violations include exposing workers to electrical hazards, not providing Appendix D for employees using respirators and failing to post combustible dust warning signs to inform employees of the fire and explosive hazards associated with combustible dust.

Proposed penalties total $133,443.

"Nemo Plastics is responsible to assess workplace hazards and ensure measures are taken to protect employees," said William Fulcher, OSHA's area director in the Atlanta-East Office. "Workers should not have to risk their lives or health to provide for themselves and their families. The hazards identified during this complaint inspection are preventable by taking basic safety precautions such as providing personal protective equipment, performing routine housekeeping and guarding machines so that a worker doesn't get injured or killed."

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