Administration

Groups head to White House over beryllium exposure rule

Groups are flocking to the White House this week to lobby for and against an Obama-era workplace safety rule covering beryllium exposure.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has four meetings scheduled on the Labor Department rule to limit workers' exposure the toxic material, which can cause a deadly lung disease.

The Trump administration has twice delayed the effective date of the rule. Employers now have until May 20 to limit exposure to 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period and 2.0 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air over a 15-minute period.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), which joined other industry groups challenging the rule in court, will meet with ORIA on Tuesday.

"Associated Builders and Contractors joined with other organizations to file the petition for administrative stay and re-opening of the rulemaking record for OSHA's beryllium standard," an ABC spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill Monday, referring to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"We share OSHA's commitment to ensuring the safety and health of all who work in the construction industry; however, in the last days of the Obama administration, OSHA expanded the scope of this rule to include the construction industry without sufficient notice for the industry to provide feedback on the feasibility and implementation of the new standard."

Opponents claim the Labor Department violated the Administrative Procedures Act by wrapping the construction and shipyard industries into the rule in its final stage.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is meeting with the White House today.

Debbie Berkowitz, a senior fellow at NELP, said OIRA is considering a proposal to roll back protections for workers in construction and shipbuilding.

"Weakening the rule would be a gut punch to workers," she said.

The group is planning to urge OIRA to keep the new standards to better protect workers from developing lung cancer and beryllium related diseases.

The AFL-CIO, which has long supported the rule, and Strategic Materials Inc. are also meeting with OIRA this week.

Lawsuits challenging the rule have been consolidated in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, where arguments are expected sometime in August.

This story was updated at 1:32 p.m.

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