Crushed coal residue from coal-fired power plants are a commonly used abrasive blasting material that contains Beryllium, known to cause lung cancer and Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD), also known as berylliosis.
- A special report by Reuters tells story of a worker who ultimately lost a lung due to "exposure to abrasive blasting dust" after time spent blasting the hulls of U.S. Navy ships
- Around 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium on the job
- An estimated 11,500 shipyard and construction workers are exposed through coal waste used in abrasive blasting grits
- In 2016, OSHA introduced a new rule that lowered the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) in anticipation the new rule is expected "to prevent 90 deaths from beryllium-related diseases and prevent 46 new cases of CBD each year"
- A cost-benefit assessment at the time projected a cost about $1,000 per worker, totaling nearly $12 million per year for the affected industries
Occupations with potential exposure to beryllium include:
- Primary Beryllium Production Workers
- Workers Processing Beryllium Metal/Alloys/Composites
- Foundry Workers
- Furnace Tenders
- Machine Operators
- Metal Fabricators
- Dental Technicians
- Secondary smelting and refining (recycling electronic and computer parts, metals)
- Abrasive Blasters (slags)
- Certain types of slags (coal, copper) used in abrasive blasting operations may contain trace amounts of beryllium (<0.1 % by weight). Due to the high dust conditions inherent in abrasive blasting operations, workers involved in these activities may be exposed to dangerous levels of beryllium.
Regardless of the politics behind defining the mechanics for enforcing the new rules, we appreciate this reminder from a major news organization of why safety matters - made personal with one man's story of how it can go wrong. The importance of protecting workers is paramount, whether or not the regulators are watching.
Take a look at our collection of respiratory protection products for heavy industry and email or call (248) 221-8076 with any questions.
Special Report: The political battle behind the dismantling of a worker safety rule | Reuters
Frequently Asked Questions: Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds | United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Beryllium | United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)