The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies beryllium and beryllium compounds as carcinogenic to humans, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies inhaled beryllium as a possible carcinogen.  Despite its toxicity, beryllium is an important material in the aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunication, energy, medical and defense industries due to its physical properties, such as its strength-to-weight ratio.  In the construction (and maritime) industries, worker exposure to respirable beryllium primarily occurs when slags that contain trace amounts of beryllium (<0.1 percent weight) are used for abrasive blast cleaning.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates approximately 11,500 construction and shipyard workers who may conduct abrasive blast cleaning with slags may be exposed to trace amounts of beryllium.  Abrasive blast cleaning typically produces a large amount of dust, some of which may contain small (respirable) beryllium particles. 


The most common health effects associated with overexposure to beryllium in the workplace include: beryllium sensitization, chronic beryllium disease (CBD), and lung cancer.

  • Beryllium Sensitization - Beryllium sensitization is the activation of the body's immune response to beryllium. Beryllium sensitization can result from inhalation or skin exposure to beryllium dust, fume, mist, or solutions. While no clinical symptoms are associated with sensitization, a sensitized worker is at risk of developing CBD when inhalation exposure to beryllium has occurred.
  • Chest roentgenograph of a patient with chronic beryllium disease, showing diffuse fibronodular infiltrates and prominent hila.
    Chronic Beryllium Disease - CBD is a chronic granulomatous lung disease caused by inhaling airborne beryllium after becoming sensitized to beryllium. The common symptoms of CBD are shortness of breath, unexplained coughing, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. CBD can result from inhalation exposure to beryllium at levels below the current OSHA PEL (0.2 μg/m3). Progression of CBD can vary among individuals. For instance, after initial exposure to beryllium, some workers may quickly develop signs and severe symptoms of CBD. Others may not experience signs and symptoms until months or years after initial exposure. The symptoms can sometimes worsen even after the worker has been removed from exposure. CBD can progress to a chronic obstructive lung disorder, resulting in loss of quality of life and the potential for decreased life expectancy.
  • Lung cancer - Based on numerous studies in occupational settings, OSHA has determined that occupational exposure to beryllium causes lung cancer in humans. In addition, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies beryllium as a Group 1 carcinogen (carcinogenic to humans), and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) lists beryllium as a known human carcinogen.
  • Acute Beryllium Disease (ABD) - Acute beryllium disease (ABD) is a rapid onset form of chemical pneumonia that results from breathing high airborne concentrations of beryllium. ABD is generally associated with exposure to beryllium levels at or above 100 μg/m3 and may be fatal in 10 percent of cases. ABD is extremely rare in the workplace today due to more stringent exposure controls implemented following occupational and environmental standards set in the 1970s.


According to OSHA, despite the known health dangers related to beryllium exposure, the permissible exposure limit (PEL) remained outdated and ineffective for preventing beryllium-related diseases for decades.  After years of science supporting the need for an updated beryllium standard, on January 9th, 2017, OSHA issued a final rule that established greater protection for workers exposed to beryllium in general industry (1910.1024), construction (1926.1124) and shipyards (1915.1024).
The rule applies when materials being used contain greater than 0.1 percent beryllium by Weight.  Employers using materials with a lesser beryllium content are exempt only where the employer has objective data demonstrating that employee exposure to airborne beryllium will remain below the action level under any foreseeable conditions.  Employers can use objective data, based on industry-wide surveys or calculations based on the beryllium content in dust, that represent typical exposures during the employers' operations, to determine if they are covered under the standard.  The data must reflect workplace conditions closely resembling or with a higher airborne exposure potential than the processes, types of material, control methods, work practices, and environmental conditions in the employer's current operations.


There are seven key provisions in the standard:

  • The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium was reduced to 0.2 microgram per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8-hours.
  • The action level for beryllium was reduced to 0.1 microgram per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8-hours.
  • It established a new short-term exposure limit (STEL) for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period.
  • It requires employers to use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure); limit worker access to high-exposure areas; provide respiratory protection where exposures are, or can be reasonably be expected to be, at or above the action level.
  • The standard requires provisions for respiratory protection and implementation of a written exposure control plan whenever employees are, or can reasonably be expected to be, exposed to airborne beryllium at levels above the TWA PEL or STEL.
  • The employer must train each employee on beryllium hazards who has, or can reasonably be expected to have, airborne exposure to or dermal contact with beryllium.
  • It requires employers to make medical surveillance available at no cost to the employee to monitor exposed workers identified with a beryllium-related disease or who are reasonably expected to be exposed at or above the action level for more than 30 days per year.

All three standards took effect May 20, 2017, but employers have until March 12, 2018 to comply with most provisions of the rule.


The final rule on Occupational Exposure to Beryllium, published on January 9, 2017, established new Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) and contained several other ancillary provisions that apply to general industry, construction, and shipyards. This rule was codified in three separate standards at 29 CFR §1910.1024, 29 CFR §1915.1024, and 29 CFR §1926.1124, and became effective on May 20, 2017. Under the general industry standard, all obligations were to commence on March 12, 2018, except for requirements for change rooms and showers in paragraphs (i)(2) and (i)(3), which commence on March 11, 2019, and requirements for engineering controls in paragraph (f), which commence on March 10, 2020.

On June 27, 2017, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to revoke the ancillary provisions of the construction and shipyard standards, 29 CFR §1915.1024 and 29 CFR §1926.1124, but retaining the new PEL and STEL. In that Notice, OSHA announced that it would not enforce the new construction and shipyard standards without further notice while that rulemaking was underway. 82 FR 29183. On August 24, 2017, OSHA noted on its website that it would not enforce the ancillary provisions of those standards without further notice, but did not state whether it would enforce the PEL or STEL.

OSHA has been in extensive settlement discussions with several parties who have filed legal actions challenging the general industry standard. In order to provide additional time to conclude those negotiations, OSHA has decided to delay enforcement of the general industry standard by 60 days until May 11, 2018. Furthermore, to ensure employers have adequate notice before OSHA begins enforcing them, as well as in the interest of uniform enforcement and clarity for employers, OSHA has decided to also delay enforcement of the PEL and STEL in the construction and shipyard standards until May 11, 2018. No other parts of the construction and shipyard beryllium standards will be enforced without additional notice. In the interim, if an employer fails to meet the new PEL or STEL, OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance. No provisions of the beryllium final rule may be enforced until May 11, 2018.


The operator enclosure, where your operator spends the most time, is the easiest and most cost-effective environment to control and has the most impact on reducing operator exposure levels to below PELs. Sy-Klone offers a simple, cost-effective three-step solution with its RESPA® Complete Cab Air Quality System. This system is designed to protect operator health, increase operator comfort and productivity, decrease operational costs, and it is endorsed by the International Society of Environmental Enclosure Engineers (ISEEE).
Sy-Klone's patented air quality products are effective at providing clean air to your HVAC system. These products have been proven in mining, waste, forestry, and agriculture and are available as a first-fit option from many original equipment manufacturers. One: Begin with the Fresh Air Component–The RESPA®-CF2. This fresh air system dramatically extends filter life and reduces the frequency of costly HVAC repairs by delivering more than 100 CFM of precleaned and filtered (MERV 16) fresh air to the HVAC system. It accepts MERV 16, HEPA, and Odor/HEPA without the need of retrofit kit. Sy-Klone's Gas/HEPA ABEK1 P3 filter (extended length only) is a RESPA-CF2 exclusive.

Step Two:  Add a Recirculated Air Component with RESPA®-FFX2 or RESPA®-CFXThese customizable recirculation filtration options will optimize the cab to protect cab electronics, increase operator protection, and reduce harmful particulate buildup on your expensive HVAC evaporator coils!

Step Three: Add Intelligence with the Electronic Pressure Monitor System. This easy to install unit gives you real-time information on cab pressure, when to change filters in your RESPA system, can be connected to remote telemetry systems, and is approved by most regulatory agencies. The Electronic Pressure Monitor System is an essential part of the complete RESPA Cab Air Quality System. The installer can customize the unit to display pressure in inches of water column or Pascal, the pressure level at which the unit alerts, and the volume of the audible alarm. It is included with most RESPA-CF Fresh Air systems. You will always know when your cab is positively pressurized, as required by the new OSHA Silica Regulations.

Benefits of a Three-Step System:

Sy-Klone's patented Air Quality products are economical and cost effective at providing clean air to your HVAC system. Reduce operator exposure to harmful particulate, dramatically extend filter life, and lengthen the life of your HVAC system and cab electronics with our powerful and unique products. Sy-Klone's Cab Air Quality products have been proven in Mining, Waste, Forestry, and Agriculture, and are available as first-fit options from many original equipment manufacturers.

  • Meets criteria specified by new OSHA Silica Rules, including precleaning, MERV 16 filtration, positive pressurization and settled dust removal.
  • Protect Operator health
  • Increase Operator comfort and productivity
  • Decrease operational cost
  • Endorsed by ISEEE (International Society of Environmental Enclosure Engineers) as a Best Practice Component 
For more information, Contact Sy-Klone International about our patented RESPA® Cab and Enclosure Air Quality Products, which are cost-effective tools at providing clean air to your HVAC system and keeping recycled air safe and breathable by greatly reducing respirable contamination.