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OSHA announces delay of beryllium standards enforcement

Missouri employers and employees should be aware that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has pushed back the enforcement date of beryllium standards to May 11. The agency's final rule on beryllium standards was published in January 2017, and enforcement was originally scheduled to begin on March 12.

In a memo released on March 2, an OSHA representative said that the postponement was needed to give the agency adequate time to settle lawsuits filed over general industry beryllium standards. The memo also said the agency will postpone enforcement of the new beryllium exposure limits for construction and shipyard companies until May. The reason for the delay is to give employers enough notice of the changes prior to enforcement by OSHA inspectors. In the meantime, employers found to be in violation of the new standards will be offered compliance assistance.

Beryllium is a metal used in several industries, including electronics and defense. Workers who experience prolonged exposure to the material are at increased risk for lung cancer, chronic beryllium disease and other serious health conditions. According to OSHA, around 62,000 U.S. workers are exposed to beryllium each year. The agency's new beryllium standards are expected to save the lives of nearly 100 workers annually.

Exposure to beryllium and other hazardous workplace materials can lead to serious long-term health problems. In order to receive help with medical expenses, lost wages and other costs, it may be advisable for affected workers to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Some employees choose to consult with legal counsel before filing a claim to ensure that everything is properly prepared.

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