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Beryllium exposure limits lowered by OSHA

Minneapolis workers who are required to be exposed to beryllium, a lightweight metal often used in electronics, should be aware that the Occupational Safety and Health Association updated a rule regarding the amount of exposure that is legally allowed. The standards apply to construction, shipyards and other industries.

Beryllium is a highly toxic metal when it is released into the air. When it can be inhaled by workers, they are at risk for suffering lung damage and chronic beryllium disease. While the permissible exposure limits were already low, workers were still at risk for suffering health impairments. Under the final rule, OSHA claims that 94 lives will be save annually and 46 new cases of beryllium exposure will be prevented each year.

Under the final rule, which was published on Jan. 9, the 8-hour limit for beryllium exposure is set at 0.2 micrograms. Additionally, the short-term beryllium exposure limit is 2.0 micrograms for 15 minutes. The rule goes into effect 60 days after the rule was published. However, employers have one year to comply with the provisions. In addition, employers must provide showers and changing rooms within two years and implement engineering controls within three years.

Occupational illnesses caused by exposure to beryllium can result in serious health complications for employees. In some cases, they may be unable to work while facing mounting medical costs. These types of diseases can be covered by workers' compensation just as can injuries resulting from accidents. However, the illness may be slow to develop, which could lead some employers to claim that it was not related to workplace exposure. As a result, it could be prudent for an impacted worker to have the assistance of an attorney when pursuing their rightful benefits.

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