Controlling Workplace Exposures
Facilities handling beryllium-containing materials in ways which generate particulate are encouraged to use engineering and work practice controls, including personal protective equipment, to control potential worker exposure. Exposure controls to keep beryllium work areas clean and keep beryllium particulate out of the lungs, off the skin, off of clothing, in the work process, in the work area and on the plant site must be evaluated and implemented as appropriate. It remains the best practice to maintain levels of all forms of beryllium exposure as low as reasonably achievable, and continue to work to improve exposure control practices and procedures.
The primary instruments for exposure reduction are engineering controls. Of these, local exhaust ventilation, which captures contaminants at the point of release, is the most useful. Valuable, and often essential, supplements to engineering measures are work-practice controls. An illustration is prohibiting compressed air for cleaning and providing vacuum-sweeping equipment equipped with a high efficiency filter. An effective housekeeping program to prevent accumulations which might become airborne and the development of written standard operating procedures (SOP's) that specify safe handling practices are work practices that are absolutely required.
Wet processing is often an effective means of controlling the generation of airborne particles. Care must be given to prevent splashing or misting that could carry alloy particles away from the operation. Inadequate coolant flow or high tooling speeds may necessitate the need for additional containment or ventilation controls. Machining lubricant should be filtered and changed frequently to reduce the accumulations of particulate.
Still another type of exposure control is the respirator. For a number of reasons, it is the least preferred in the hierarchy of controls. Improper fit may not provide adequate protection and respirators can be uncomfortable. The best practice is to confine the use of respirators to operations for which satisfactory engineering of work-practice controls have not been developed, to maintenance work, to emergency situations, and to operations awaiting the results of exposure measurement.
BeST developed a Sources of Exposure Tool that characterises risk potential by operation and addresses specific operational concerns. The tool can also be used as a training aid.