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Final OSHA rule for beryllium

New Jersey workers who may sometimes be exposed to dangerous materials while performing their tasks may be interested to hear about a final rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding lower exposure limits for beryllium. The new standards apply to the shipyard, general and construction industries.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal that is extremely hazardous when particles become airborne and are inhaled by workers. It is used in several industries, such as energy and electronics, and can cause lung damage, including a serious condition referred to as chronic beryllium disease. Even if a worker experiences low levels of exposure, he or she can have significant health issues.

If a worker is exposed to beryllium based on the previous exposure limits established by OSHA, he or she will faces a substantial risk of compromising his or her health. The new standards decrease the 8-hour permissible exposure level from 2.0 micrograms to 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air. There is also a short-term exposure limit established by the rule for 2.0 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air over a sample period of 15 minutes.

Employers will have one year to adhere to a majority of the provisions in the new rule, which was published on Jan. 9, 2017 and becomes enforceable 60 days after it has been published. Two years after the effective date, the employer will have to provide change rooms and shower areas for their employees. The requirement to implement engineering controls will begin another year later.

Workers' compensation benefits are in most cases available for people who have become ill due to workplace environmental conditions. As many occupational diseases take a long time to produce symptoms, however, it might be more difficult to establish a nexus, which is why having the assistance of an attorney in the preparation and submission of a claim might be advisable.

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