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Beryllium exposure enforcement might prevent workplace illness

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared beryllium as a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer. This is a severe occupational hazard, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the development of standards to protect workers from contracting this workplace illness. Although March 12, 2018, was the set enforcement date, it was postponed to May 11 to give stakeholders in New York and other states the opportunity to study their obligations and to ensure consistency in OSHA inspections.

The enforcement will involve reduced permissible 8-hour and 15-minute exposure limits for workers in the shipyard and construction industries. Beryllium exposure in construction occurs among welders, roofers, metal recyclers, metal fabricators and abrasive blasters. Airborne beryllium can be inhaled, and victims may develop chronic beryllium disease, which is a lung condition. However, exposure to beryllium solutions, fumes, dust or mist can also be absorbed through workers' skins, and it could cause cancer.

Workers who develop symptoms like shortness of breath, inexplicable coughing, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats and fever will want to seek medical care and specific evaluation of the effects of beryllium exposure. If not treated timely, chronic beryllium disease can develop into a more severe chronic obstructive lung disorder. Any of these diseases can adversely affect the worker's quality of life and even decrease life expectancy.

Construction workers in New York may find comfort in knowing that the workers' compensation insurance program will likely cover the medical expenses for treatment of any workplace illness. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can provide the necessary support to get the appropriate care. The lawyer can also assist with the navigation of a benefits claim for coverage of medical costs and lost income.

Source:, "OSHA Begins Beryllium Standard Enforcement May 11", March 5, 2018

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