OSHA Rolls Back Safety Rule Relating to Beryllium

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The safety rollback will create more exposure to beryllium to industrial workers and may lead to more beryllium lawsuits.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has rolled back Obama-era safety rules that were put in place to protect maritime and construction workers from beryllium, a potentially deadly mineral. According to a report in The New York Times, soon after President Trump’s inauguration, the agency said it might lift some of these restrictions. The proposed rollback of the
beryllium rule comes after an intense lobbying campaign by sellers of a waste product called “coal slag,” which is an abrasive used for sandblasting at construction sites and in shipyards. Workers in industries such as aerospace, defense, manufacturing, and metal working, are often times exposed to this dangerous substance, which can cause them to file a beryllium lawsuit. Decreased or insufficient workplace regulations and dangerous work conditions can often times lead to an East Providence workers’ compensation lawsuit.

Why Is Beryllium Dangerous?

OSHA’s proposed rollback of this safety rule is certainly a step back in a long effort on the part of safety advocates to lower workers’ exposure to beryllium, which has been linked to a debilitating lung ailment known as chronic beryllium disease. This is an ailment that kills about 100 people each year in the United States. Safety advocates fear that if this rule goes into effect, workers in the construction and shipyard industry could face serious risk of disability and death.

What Does the OSHA Proposal Entail?

The OSHA proposal released on June 23 would require shipyards and construction companies that utilize coal slag to meet the same new maximum exposure limit as other industries. However, it also proposes to exempt the two sectors from current requirements such as medical monitoring of employees and other specific safety measures. OSHA stated that upon further review it became apparent that these safety measures didn’t really offer any additional protections to workers. Public records obtained by The New York Times show that lobbyists pushing for this rollback spent $60,000 to lobby OSHA.

What Exactly Is Beryllium?

Beryllium is an industrial metal that’s attractive because it’s lighter than aluminum and six times stronger than steel. However, it is extremely toxic to lung tissue. Chronic beryllium disease is often caused by low concentrations of the mineral. The dust is transported through workers’ clothes to their homes, so workers essentially carry this danger home with them. Some of the symptoms of chronic beryllium disease include weakness, fatigue, trouble breathing, weight loss, enlargement of the right side of the heart and heart disease. Beryllium and related compounds have also been linked to chromosomal damage. One study found that beryllium exposure also caused suicidal ideation among workers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul d’Oliveira
Attorney Paul d’Oliveira has been practicing personal injury and disability law for over 29 years. He started his personal injury law practice in 1989 with two offices in Fall River, MA and East Providence, RI. Today his firm has 15 offices in RI and Southeastern, MA.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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