OSHA Issues Direct Final Rule on Beryllium

Dentistry Today


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a direct final rule (DFR) clarifying aspects of the beryllium standard for general industry as it applies to processes, operations, or areas where workers may be exposed to materials containing less than 0.1% beryllium by weight. 

Dental materials, including some crowns and bridges, use alloys that contain beryllium to improve castability and bond strength. The process of melting, grinding, polishing, and finishing certain dental materials can produce particles, fumes, mists, and solutions containing beryllium, which may be harmful depending on the intensity, duration, frequency, and route of exposure.

Inhaling or contacting beryllium can cause an immune response that sensitizes the individual to the element. Subsequent exposure can lead to chronic beryllium disease (CBD), which includes shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. There is no cure for CBD. Lung cancer and acute beryllium disease also are potential consequences of exposure. 

According to the National Association of Dental Laboratories, the use of beryllium alloys in dental labs has fallen to very low levels. Also, the ADA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health both have promulgated standard practices to prevent unsafe exposure to beryllium and beryllium-containing compounds. 

The DFR clarifies the definitions of Beryllium Work Area, emergency, dermal contact, and beryllium contamination. It also clarifies provisions for disposal and recycling and provisions that OSHA intends to apply only where skin can be exposed to materials containing at least 0.1% beryllium by weight. It will become effective on July 6, 2018, unless OSHA receives significant adverse comments by June 6, 2018.

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