OSHA delays major Obama-era workplace rule

OSHA delays major Obama-era workplace rule

The Labor Department announced Wednesday that it is delaying a long-awaited rule that the Obama administration finished in January to protect workers from a dangerous element known as beryllium.

The rule — former President Obama’s last major workplace protection — set to take effect March 21 will now be pushed back until May 20 as a result of the regulatory freeze President Trump initiated when he took office.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal that’s used in foundry and smelting operations, machining, beryllium oxide ceramics, composites manufacturing and dental lab work. When sanded down, the dust particles carry severe health risks when inhaled, including cancer risks.

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The rule from the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reduced the permissible exposure of beryllium from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period.

It also set a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a 15-minute sampling period.

OSHA said the delay gives the agency an opportunity for further review and consideration of the rule. Hours after January's inauguration, Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, issued a memo ordering agencies to halt all regulatory action. He called for any rules that had been finalized, but had not yet taken effect, to be delayed for at least 60 days.

OSHA is accepting public comment through March 12 on whether to delay the rule even further.