Recently, The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) has issued a 28 page warning document titled, "Preventing Sensitization & Disease from Beryllium Exposure." Essentially, the document states that there have been reports of beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease in situations where workers have been exposed to amounts below the current OSHA permissible exposure level of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Therefore, NIOSH is indicating that a safe exposure level has yet to be determined for Beryllium.
The NIOSH alert does provide helpful information on how to identify and reduce employee exposures to Beryllium. Click here to access the NIOSH warning document.
Many different industries are exposed to Beryllium, such as construction, welding, aluminum smelting, precision machining, ore milling, mining, ceramics and nuclear weapon production. Beryllium is a light weight alkaline earth metal that is used as a hardening agent in alloys, such as beryllium copper. Employees can be exposed to dust, fumes or mists which can cause injury/illness.
Be sure to evaluate whether or not your employees are exposed to Beryllium and take the necessary precautions if you find it is an exposure for your operations.
Lisa Mundt is a Senior Risk Control Representative for Westfield Insurance, a regional insurance company based in Northeast Ohio and operating in 18 states. Lisa is based out of our Atlanta, Georgia office.