Prevention of Chronic Beryllium Disease

Employers are responsible for providing a healthy working condition to their workers. Many industries strictly implement measures in the prevention of chronic beryllium disease (CBD).

The first step, of course is to identify the presence of beryllium. The acceptable standard is not more than 10% in a raw material. This is the standard set by the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

Every company follows stringent preventive system to ensure that its workers are not exposed to beryllium. For example, the Chemical Hygiene and Safety Plan (CHSP) for the Berkeley Laboratory has set requirements on the use of beryllium.

Furthermore, protocols to monitor exposure in Berkeley Laboratory adhere to the “OSHA Technical Manual”. OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA’s press release issued last October24, 2013 provided also toolkit for employes and companies on how to identify hazardous chemical substance and finding a suitable replacement or alternatives for it when possible.

Here are preventive measures that companies and manufacturers follow.

Modifying the process

Like many lung disorders, beryllium disease is airborne. Workers who are exposed to powder beryllium are susceptible to developing chronic (short term) or acute (long term) beryllium disease. Using pellets instead of beryllium powder can minimize beryllium exposure

Keeping the process enclosed

Processes using beryllium must be done in enclosed areas to separate workers from the toxic substances. There must be a beryllium-restricted area to enclose beryllium processes.

Automation of work processes

Handling raw materials with toxic beryllium content can be replaced by automated work system.

Installing local ventilation systems

Sufficient local ventilation systems can prevent beryllium dust and fumes to escape from the workroom. The air from the ventilation and local exhaust system should be filtered through a highly-efficient equipment.

Good housekeeping

Proper storage, frequent waste disposal, periodic equipment maintenance and no-dry sweeping policy are examples of good housekeeping.

Respiratory protection

Employers should provide written program to all workers describing the proper selection, care and use of respirator. Protective respiratory devices and clothing will reduce beryllium exposure. OSHA and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommend respirators with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter cartridges.

Hygiene facilities

Workers in beryllium-restricted areas are not allowed to consume beverages, gum, food or tobacco. They are also prohibited to apply makeup. Any worker with open wound will not be allowed to enter the area.

Personal protective clothing

Protective clothing in a beryllium processing facility. Photo from nynjerc.blogspot

Coveralls, headgear and shoes or personal protective equipments (PPE) are strictly implemented. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum are used for cleaning equipment and floor,

Change rooms are assigned when removing contaminated clothing and should be handled with care to prevent beryllium to be airborne. Thus shaking, air-cleaning, or disturbing it prior to bagging must be avoided. The workplaces should be so designed that they are located near the washrooms, toilets, showers, and lockers. Special lockers are provided to make sure that work clothes are separated from other clothing.

Training and information

Training and information programs should be provided so that workers will know the hazards and the safety measures when working with beryllium substances.

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