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Despite toxic exposure concerns, OSHA proposes to relax rules

Workers' advocates have been fighting for years to make certain industrial environments safer for people on job sites. One such concern is related to toxic exposure to certain minerals. Specifically, in maritime and construction industries, workers face exposure to beryllium when the mineral is used in sandblasting. Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed to relax certain guidelines that may affect how California workers are monitored for exposure to the mineral. 

OSHA has proposed the changes following lobbying by a group of coal slag sales businesses. Coal slag is often used in the maritime and construction industries as an abrasive for sandblasting. It is a byproduct of coal extraction, and contains trace amounts of beryllium. Exposure to beryllium is linked to chronic beryllium disease, and OSHA safety procedures to control exposure are in place.

The specific changes proposed by OSHA do not change the restrictions on the allowable amounts in the air, currently set at 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Instead, OSHA has proposed the elimination of certain medical monitoring, citing no evidence that the increased monitoring affected health outcomes. OSHA has also proposed to eliminate other specific safety guidelines. 

California workers in the maritime and construction industries should be aware of the proposed changes to the beryllium guidelines. Workers should be equipped with safety equipment and other safety procedures in order to limit their exposure to harmful chemicals. If a worker does become sick due to toxic exposure, that worker is entitled to make a claim to receive workers' comp insurance benefits. A lawyer can help workers make workers' comp claims so that they receive the full allowable claim amount. 

Source: The New York Times, "OSHA to Roll Back Rules on Toxic Mineral at Construction Sites", Barry Meier, June 23, 2017

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