Revoking Provisions for Construction and Shipyard Sectors Puts Workers at Risk for Beryllium Disease
In response to a call for comments, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is strongly urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to retain those portions of the proposed rule on occupational exposure to beryllium that deal with medical surveillance, medical removal, and other ancillary standards for both construction and shipyard workers.
On June 27, 2017, OSHA issued a call for comments on its proposal to revoke the ancillary provisions of the beryllium rule for the construction and the shipyard sectors that OSHA adopted on January 9, 2017, but retain the new lower permissible exposure limit (PEL) and the short term exposure limit (STEL) for each sector.
ACOEM believes that the PEL/STEL alone is insufficient to protect workers in the construction and shipyard sections. “The unusual nature of the beryllium hazard that justifies the application of the ancillary standards in general industry applies by the same logic to construction and shipbuilding,” ACOEM noted in its comments to OSHA. “Given the extremely low levels at which beryllium can cause sensitization, extra measures to contain and minimize the hazard are warranted.”
ACOEM further pointed out that the ancillary provision for medical surveillance of exposed workers has been proven to be a ‘safety net’ for detecting beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease (CBD) at early stages of illness. “Exposed workers deserve the opportunity to know, based on medical assessment, when they are at increased personal risk of CBD or have early signs of disease, ACOEM noted. “Without medical surveillance, atrisk workers may continue to be exposed and unknowingly increase their likelihood of serious, even fatal, disease.”
ACOEM is an international society of approximately 4,500 occupational and environmental physicians and other health care professionals. The College provides leadership to promote the health and safety of workers, stimulate research, enhancing education, and advance the specialty of OEM, the medical specialty devoted to the prevention and management of occupational and environmental injuries and illnesses. As such, ACOEM is the only medical specialty society uniquely involved in the matching of the worker’s capabilities to the job requirements.
Read entire ACOEM comments