Ten OSHA employees have tested positive for sensitization to beryllium, as the agency recently announced the results of a pilot program to test its compliance safety and health officers for sensitization to the potentially harmful metal. Under its pilot beryllium medical monitoring program, OSHA offered voluntary testing to its personnel who may have had potential exposure to beryllium in the course of their work.

Jonathan L. Snare, acting OSHA chief, said: "As of March 15, 2005, 302 OSHA employees requested testing for beryllium sensitization; 271 of those tests have been completed, while 31 who initially expressed interest have yet to take steps to schedule their appointments. Ten employees, or 3.7 percent of those tested, have tested positive for sensitization to beryllium.”

Snare said that although a positive test shows a sensitization to beryllium, it does not imply that one has, or will develop, chronic beryllium disease. The test results also don't reveal whether those who tested “positive” developed the sensitization during their employment with OSHA.

Individuals who tested “positive,” said Snare, received counseling from OSHA's Office of Occupational Medicine regarding further medical evaluation and other issues such as workers' compensation rights and procedures. He added that the agency follows procedures established in the CSHO Medical Examination program on appropriate work accommodations.

Beryllium is a metal found in nature, particularly as a component of coal, oil, certain rock minerals, volcanic dust and soil and is often used in metal working, ceramic manufacturing, electronic applications, laboratory work, dental alloys and sporting goods, according to OSHA.