Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is beryllium?

The element beryllium, atomic number 4, is a grey metal that is stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum. Its physical properties of great strength-to-weight, high melting point, excellent thermal stability and conductivity, reflectivity, and transparency to X-rays make it an essential material in the aerospace, telecommunications, information technology, defense, medical, and nuclear industries.

In industry, beryllium is used in three forms; as a pure metal, as beryllium oxide, and most commonly, as an alloy with copper, aluminum, magnesium, or nickel. Beryllium oxide (called beryllia) is known for its high heat capacity and is an important component of certain sensitive electronic equipment. Copper-beryllium alloy is commonly used to make bushings, bearings, and springs. Beryllium is also found as a trace metal in slags and fly ash.

What are the hazards associated with beryllium?

Exposure to beryllium by inhalation of airborne beryllium or by skin contact with beryllium-containing dust, fume, mist, or solutions can cause health effects. The most common health effects associated with overexposure to beryllium in the workplace include: beryllium sensitization, chronic beryllium disease (CBD), and lung cancer.



What can I do to protect myself?

Your employer must reduce exposures to airborne beryllium to or below the beryllium permissible exposure levels (PEL) through engineering controls to the extent feasible. Where all feasible controls are not sufficient to reduce exposures to or below the PELs, respirators must be provided in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.134. In addition, personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE) (e.g., gloves, shoe covers) is required when airborne exposures can exceed the PEL, short-term exposure level (STEL) or there is the potential for skin exposure.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Safety and Health Programs

Example programs applicable to occupational exposure to beryllium can be customized to fit individual workplaces include hazard communication program, respiratory protection programhazardous chemical program, and the PPE hazard assessment.

Training and Outreach Services

Presentations that may also assist the employer with their training requirements include hazard communication, respiratory protection, and personal protective equipment

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. Further, these pre-recorded webinars on hazard communication and respiratory protection are also available for employee training.

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video service) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

Related resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for respiratory protection, hazard communication, and personal protective equipment.  

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.




Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to beryllium in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

In addition, following standards can apply to employee exposure to beryllium:

  • 29 CFR 1910.132 - personal protective equipment, general requirements - general industry

  • 29 CFR 1910.134 - respiratory protection - general industry, maritime and construction

  • 29 CFR 1910.1020 - access to employee exposure and medical records - respiratory protection - general industry, maritime and construction

  • 29 CFR 1910.1200 - hazard communication - general industry, maritime and construction

Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Compliance Documents

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to or by calling 919-707-7876.