Workers in South Carolina who are exposed to beryllium should be aware that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has lowered its exposure limits to the lightweight metal. These changes apply to the construction, general and shipyard industries.

A lot of industries use beryllium, including those that produce energy and electronics. The metal is very toxic when it enters the air. Workers who are exposed to beryllium can suffer lung damage if they breathe it in. This could lead to conditions such as chronic beryllium disease. OSHA states that even exposure to low amounts of the metal can lead to serious health issues.

According to the new rule that was published on Jan. 9, the previous beryllium exposure limits meant that workers faced a great risk of impairment. The permissible exposure limit was 2 micrograms in an eight-hour period, which was based on studies that are decades old. The administrator of OSHA said in a statement that these standards did not adequately protect workers.

Effective 60 days after its publication, the update decreases this limit to 0.2 micrograms. It also imposes a 2-microgram limit per cubic meter of air cover for a 15-minute period. Additionally, the update has new requirements for medical assessments, personal protective equipment, training and further preventive measures.

OSHA states that the update will prevent 46 new cases of disease every year and save 94 workers’ lives. The administrator says that the changes are based on science and the urgency for action. The agency is giving employers one year to comply with a majority of the new provisions.

Employees can suffer all kinds of workplace injuries from bumps on the head to lifelong diseases. In South Carolina, they could be entitled to workers’ compensation for their suffering. This may pay for their medical bills, replace lost wages and compensate for disabilities. Workers can get help with filing a claim from their employers, the Workers’ Compensation Commission or private attorneys.