EPI Director of Policy Heidi Shierholz and Research Assistant Julia Wolfe submitted comments to the Department of Labor today opposing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposal to revoke provisions of the “beryllium rule” limiting occupational exposure to beryllium in the construction and shipyard sectors. According to Shierholz and Wolfe, the Department of Labor’s own analysis shows if these provisions are rolled back, every year around six additional people will develop Chronic Beryllium Disease, and four of them will die. In exchange for those lives, businesses will save $11.9 million per year.
“The lives of working people in construction sites and in shipyards are on the line,” said Shierholz. “$11 million dollars sounds like a lot of money until you think about the lives of four human beings and the effects of those illnesses and premature deaths on the people who love them.”
Shierholz and Wolfe urged OSHA not to revoke the ancillary provisions protecting construction and shipyard workers from beryllium exposure. The proposal to revoke these provisions was made without considering new evidence and, if finalized, will cost lives. DOL has already delayed implementing the beryllium rule, allowing workers to continue to be exposed to the toxic chemical. Working people deserve sensible regulations that protect them on the job.
“If the proposed rollback is implemented, workers in the construction and shipyard sectors will face an increased risk of beryllium-related death and illness,” said Wolfe. “The cost of the resulting illness and death outweighs any cost savings to businesses.”