June 28, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Washington, DC – The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a proposal June 23 to weaken limits it established in January on workers’ exposure to beryllium.
The proposal would exempt shipyards and construction companies from having to provide protective equipment for workers, monitoring their exposure to beryllium, or developing plans to control exposure. Inhaling beryllium, a trace element in coal slag used for sandblasting, can cause a lung-scarring disease estimated to kill 100 people a year. The Abrasive Blasting Manufacturers Alliance, a trade organization that denied any connection between inhaling coal-slag dust and chronic beryllium disease, spent at least $60,000 to lobby OSHA since January, according to public records obtained by the New York Times. “If this proposal to weaken the beryllium rule goes into effect, construction and shipyard workers will die and be permanently disabled,” Emily Gardner, an advocate for workers’ health and safety at Public Citizen in Washington, told the Times. The 90-day period for public comments on the proposal begins June 27. OSHA estimates that the rule covers about 11,500 workers in the construction and maritime industries. Read more
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