USW Lauds OSHA’s Push to Establish New Standard to Protect Workers Exposed to Beryllium

Contact: James Frederick (412) 562-2586, jfrederick@usw.org

(Pittsburgh) – The United Steelworkers (USW) today commended the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for moving forward with its proposed rule on occupational exposure to beryllium.

The proposal was announced during a meeting today by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels, Richard J. Hipple, President and CEO of Materion Corporation, and USW International President Leo W. Gerard.

“We applaud the release of this proposed rule,” said Gerard. “When it goes into effect, it will save not only the lives of USW members, but all workers exposed to beryllium.”

The USW represents thousands of workers who manufacture or use beryllium alloys and beryllium-containing products in a number of industries.

“Beryllium is a highly useful metal, but beryllium dust and fume can cause severe, debilitating and sometimes fatal lung disease,” said USW Health, Safety and Environment Director Mike Wright. “This rule has been long in coming, but we can finally see the finish line.”

The USW has been involved in beryllium rulemaking since 1977, when OSHA first proposed a new standard. It took 35 years, including the time when political pressure forced cancellation of the rulemaking.  In 2012, however, a collaborative effort between Materion Corporation, the world’s largest beryllium producer, and the USW resulted in a draft model standard that was presented to OSHA.

Following the publication of the proposal in the Federal Registrar, there will be a 90-day comment period. The USW hopes that when the comment period comes to a conclusion, the agency will move swiftly to ensure that this proposal becomes law.

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org/.

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