Pennsylvania residents who are employed in shipyards or construction may be interested to learn that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule that lowered the permissible exposure limit of beryllium in certain workplaces. This lightweight metal, which is often found used in industries that deal with energy or electronics, can be highly toxic if it is breathed in by workers.
Workers who are exposed to too much beryllium can suffer from a condition called chronic beryllium disease and even lung damage. Low-levels of beryllium exposure over time can also lead to health complications later on. The previous beryllium limits were 2.0 micrograms in an eight-hour period. OSHA stated that this previous exposure limit was set based on “decades-old studies” that are outdated.
The new standard was set based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence. Workers cannot be subjected to beryllium levels that are higher than 0.2 micrograms in an eight-hour period. Short-term exposure limits were set to 2.0 micrograms. Employers have 60 days after the rule was published until the standards go into effect. There are also some provisions that employers will have to meet within two to three years, including providing showers and change rooms.
When employees think about workers’ compensation, it is likely that they often relate it to physical injuries and accidents. However, benefits can also be available for people who contract diseases as a result of being exposed to toxic substances on the job. One problem might be that as the symptoms of many of these illnesses take some time to manifest, an employer might choose to deny the claim on the basis that the illness was attributable to other factors. This is why it can be advisable to have an attorney’s assistance throughout the process.