As of April 21, OSHA inspectors have new enforcement guidance when performing inspections involving employee exposure to beryllium dust.
This extensive new guidance – which applies to general industry, construction and shipyards – is meant to be an interim measure replacing enforcement guidance that was issued in December 2018.
Exposures and assessments
For all three industries, one thing inspectors will obviously be checking on is whether beryllium exposure exceeds the permissible exposure limits (PEL) of the new standards, and if it does exceed the PEL it will result in a serious citation.
At the same time, they’ll also be checking for exposure to “any other air contaminants generated from the same process or operation” and they’ll be issuing a serious citation for each PEL violation they find.
Inspectors will also be reviewing exposure assessments to see if employers performed new tests for beryllium exposure “whenever a change in the production, process, control equipment, personnel or work practices may have resulted in … additional exposures.”
If no assessment has been performed, then a citation will of course be issued, but inspectors will also be looking at assessments to ensure they are adequate in terms of sampling time, documentation and analysis.
Exposure control plans
Each industry has its own requirements when it comes to written exposure control plans, but inspectors will be looking for similar things across all three.
The guidance tells inspectors to review the plan and interview managers and employees to determine what engineering and work practice controls were implemented and when.
Then they are to evaluate the effectiveness of the controls, the selected respiratory protection and any employer exemption claims along with the available sampling data.
If any deficiencies are found, they “should be used as a basis for recommendations to achieve compliance,” but if a complete written plan hasn’t been established, implemented or maintained a citation will be issued.
Respiratory protection and PPE
Inspectors will be looking at the respirators and PPE chosen to protect employees from beryllium dust, if exposure has been determined.
They will review employee medical examination results and conduct interviews to determine if employees have been medically cleared to wear respirators, fully trained in their use and properly fit tested.
Other PPE will also be evaluated under the standard for each specific industry along with how it’s used, removed and stored.
Employer records regarding air sampling and monitoring, training and employee medical surveillance will be requested for review.
It’s important to note the guidance tells inspectors to “review and familiarize yourself with … rules of agency practice and procedure concerning OSHA access to employee medical records.”
The beryllium standards for each of the covered industries are handled differently when it comes to things like designated work areas, hazard communication and employee medical surveillance.
You may want to review the guidance on these topics to see what inspectors may be looking for in your specific industry.
The full guidance document can be found here.