Occupational exposure to Beryllium occurs by both inhalation and contact. Health effects are Sensitization, Chronic Beryllium Disease, Acute Beryllium Disease, and Lung Cancer.
Beryllium is commonly used in three forms: as the pure metal, as an oxide, and as an alloy. Industry use is quite broad, including engines, satellites, brake systems, semiconductors, optical systems, dental plates, telecommunication parts, laser devices, and sporting goods.
Possible exposure sources include: foundry workers, furnace tenders, machine operators, fabricators, welders, dental techs, abrasive blasters, and smelting/refining.
It is estimated that about 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces on a regular basis. This includes approximately 11,500 construction and shipyard workers who typically utilize abrasive blasting procedures using slags that contain trace amounts of beryllium. The majority of workers who do not use the proper apparatus are exposed during their work operation to beryllium metal and ceramic production, non-ferrous foundries, and fabrication of beryllium alloy products.
In 2017, OSHA proposed a new rule for Beryllium Exposure. The key provisions of the proposed OSHA Standard for Beryllium Exposure are:
- a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 0.2 ug/m3 averaged over an 8-hour Shift
- a Short-Term Exposure Limit (STEL) of 2.0 ug/m3 for a 15 minute sampling period
- an Action Level of 0.1 ug/m3
- 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.
For more information regarding the OSHA proposed Standard for Beryllium Exposure, please reference: