January 26, 2017

OSHA's 2017 beryllium exposure standards update

OSHA has issued final rules updating its general industry walking-working surface — fall protection and beryllium exposure standards, with various compliance dates.

Effective Jan. 17, OSHA’s final rule updated its general industry walking-working surface standards for slips, trips and falls. The rule includes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems. An OSHA news release on Nov. 17, 2016, reported the final rule aligns general and construction industries more consistently, easing compliance for employers that operate in both industry segments.

Employers may select the fall protection systems that work best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. Companies also may use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level. However, the rule prohibits body belts in personal fall arrest systems and requires training for workers on personal fall protection and protection gear. Employers must now use scaffolds in accordance with the construction standards. Outdoor advertising employers are now unable to use the “qualified climber” exception, and the new rule also prohibits exclusive use of a well or cage as fall protection on ladders longer than 24 feet.

Previous beryllium standard put workers at “significant risk” OSHA’s final rule on beryllium exposure earlier this month tightens permissible exposure limits (PELs). The agency said research shows previous limits left workers at “significant risk of material impairment to their health.” Under the final rule, the eight-hour PEL decreases to 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air from the previous limit of 2.0 micrograms. The rule also sets a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air over a sampling period of 15 minutes. The rule includes requirements for personal protective equipment, medical exams, training and other safeguards.

Published Jan. 9, the beryllium exposure rule will be effective 60 days following publication. Employers will have one year to comply with most of the rule’s provisions. Organizations must provide changing rooms and showers within two years after the effective date and implement engineering controls within three years following the effective date.

If you have any questions about these OSHA updates or any other safety or compliance issue, please contact Safety On Call at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.