July 24, 2012
Six of Eight Key Industry Players Follow Public Citizen’s Advice and Begin to Inform Workers About Beryllium Exposure
Slow Steps Being Taken to Protect Coal Slag Workers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an important safety improvement, six major coal slag manufacturers have responded to a Public Citizen request and are beginning to provide information to workers about their exposure to beryllium, ensuring that at least some workers will be informed of the highly toxic metal in the workplace. Specifically, the companies have agreed to update their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which they are required to provide to workers upon request.
This is a step in the right direction for enforcement under the existing law. Coal slag is used to make roofing and flooring products as well as abrasives used to remove paint and rust.
Exposure to beryllium can result in chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer. Even short-term exposure at low levels can be dangerous. According to federal law, manufacturers are required to tell workers about a hazardous substance if a mixture they are working with contains the toxicant at levels that “could be released in concentrations which would exceed an established OSHA permissible exposure limit.”
It was discovered by Public Citizen in January 2012 that coal slag manufacturers were failing to properly disclose the toxic contents of beryllium hazards on their MSDSs. That month, Public Citizen sent a letter to Thomas Galassi, directorate of enforcement programs at OSHA, requesting that the current regulation be enforced. Since Public Citizen’s letter, six of the eight major coal slag companies – Harsco Corporation, Abrasives Incorporated, American Industrial Minerals, ATI Black Diamond, Mobile Abrasives Incorporated and Opta Minerals Incorporated – have updated and listed beryllium on their MSDSs. Yet two major manufacturers of coal slag, Ensio Incorporated and U.S. Minerals, have failed to comply.
“Workers have a right to know what could seriously harm them in the workplace,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The fact that Ensio and U.S. Minerals have failed to inform their employees of these potentially fatal hazards is a disgrace and unacceptable.”
Public Citizen continues to press companies to inform their workers of dangers in the workplace and to prioritize the disclosure of beryllium hazards. The organization calls on Galassi to renew his commitment to enforce the current safeguards and require Ensio and U.S Minerals to protect workers.