USW Blasts Proposal to Cancel Beryllium Protections for Shipyard and Construction Workers

CONTACT: Michael Wright (412) 370-0105;

The United Steelworkers (USW) today blasted the Administration’s proposal to cancel important protections for shipyard and construction workers exposed to beryllium. Under the proposal OSHA released this morning, employers would no longer have to measure beryllium levels in the workplace or provide medical testing to workers at risk of fatal lung disease. In addition, workers would not have the right to wear protective clothing or to shower at the end of the work shift, making it possible for beryllium to be taken home and exposed to spouses and children. 

Beryllium is a highly useful metal, but it can cause a crippling and sometimes fatal disease that ultimately robs sufferers of the ability to breathe. OSHA issued new beryllium standards in January covering workers in all industries. Today’s proposal eliminates most of the provisions covering the maritime and construction industries. The USW has members in both industries, including workers at the Newport News shipyard who build nuclear aircraft carriers and submarines for the Navy.

“No worker should have to die from chronic beryllium disease,” said Michael Wright, the USW’s Director of Health, Safety and Environment, “and the Administration has no business discriminating against any group of workers just because they happen to be in the wrong industry. We will vigorously oppose this cruel proposal.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors.  For more information:


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