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Comments to OSHA on Beryllium Standards Revocation

August 28, 2017

In public comments to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, we highlight some critical problems with the agency’s cost-benefit analysis in its proposed revocation of standards to protect workers from exposure to beryllium. These ancillary standards were designed to protect workers in the construction and shipyard sectors.

As OSHA acknowledges, under judicial interpretations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, while the agency cannot base standards directly on a cost-benefit analysis, OSHA also “cannot choose an alternative that provides a lower level of protection because it is less costly.” In this proposal, OSHA asserts that workers “will have limited to no foregone benefits” in terms of reduced health protection “as a result of withdrawing the ancillary provisions”—provisions that include exposure assessments, beryllium regulated areas, written exposure control plans, protective work clothing, hygiene areas and practices, housekeeping, medical surveillance, medical removal, and worker training. At the same time, OSHA calculates $11 million in annual cost savings, and these estimated cost savings feature prominently in the agency’s preamble justifying its proposed rule.

But when the ancillary standards were finalized a mere seven months ago in January 2017, OSHA calculated that the ancillary standards would generate over $27 million per year in health benefits in the construction and shipyard sectors. Thus, it is hard to believe that OSHA can now revoke the same standards with only “limited to no foregone benefits.” Indeed, OSHA’s finding of “limited to no foregone benefits” lacks an adequate explanation.

Filed under Environmental Health, Public Comments, Safety and Consumer Protection, Transparency