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Published: Thursday, 1/17/2013

DEADLY ALLIANCE: WEAPONS OVER WORKERS

A company 'warning' from Brush Wellman to workers

Below is the text of a warning letter new Brush workers had to sign starting in 1959. It was used, virtually unchanged, for more than a quarter-century. Last year, Brush adopted a greatly expanded warning letter. For the first time in its warning letter to employees, Brush stated that beryllium disease can be fatal.

Revised January 3, 1959

TO: ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE BRUSH BERYLLIUM COMPANY

Mecial authorities now recognize that materials containing beryllium may under certain conditions be harmful to a person's health. The information resulting from medical research on the effect of beryllium on individuals indicates that this industrial health hazard is not yet fully understood. For this very reason and in order to be sure to provide adequate protection at all times, we go to a great deal of effort and expense to safeguard anyone who may come in contact with materials containing beryllium. As a result of these efforts, we have twice received National Safety Awards in recognition of our health controls.

The health problem which occurs most frequently in the beryllium industry involves skin irritations or a skin rash, resulting from exposing the skin to certain chemicals which are used or produced in our operations. A small percentage of our new employees are 'allergic' to some of these chemicals.

Much less frequent than skin irritations are respiratory diseases which result from breathing excessive amounts of fume or dust containing beryllium. Such respiratory diseases can be of serious nature, but as a result of our constant efforts to guard against such exposures, and with the full cooperation of every employee, our experience indicates that such hazards can be controlled.

The Brush Beryllium Company health program will be explained to you when you are employed and will be reviewed by your supervisor. We have installed the most modern ventilation equipment available. This equipment is designed to control the beryllium content in the air you breathe within limits considered completely safe by competent medical authorities. Our ventilation systems are checked regualarly by personnel trained in engineering and industrial hygiene. All dust, fumes and gases pass through modern dust collecting and scrubbing equipment before being discharged to the air.

The efficiency of our health controls is checked constantly through air sampling equipment which is installed both inside and outside our plants. Our engineers are alert at all times to the necessity of keeping at a minimum the number of exposures in normal operations. Also, all plant operations have been designed with the health of our employees being given first consideration.

Our medical program is set up to prevent occupational diseases. Our doctors will not approve you for employment if in their opinion your past health record, or you pre-employment examination indicates that you might be a poor health risk in our industry. Our medical program also includes a complete annual physical examination and chest X-ray twice each year for all employees.

We will train you to keep yourself clean when working in our plant. We will also show you the proper use and care of our health control equipment. We will explain routines which you should follow in order to avoid health hazards. If you work in beryllium production areas, you will be furnished your work clothing and shoes. We will also launder the work clothing furnished you. You may not wear or take this clothing away from our plant. When you work in beryllium production areas, you are required to take a shower at the end of your work day and we provide paid shower time for this purpose.

Most factories have occupational hazards of one kind or another. We fully realize the hazards which we have in our particular industry and we are, therefore, constantly busy maintaining and improving our health controls. To be completely successful in this effort we must, however, have the full cooperation of ALL EMPLOYEES. Please be sure to follow your supervisor's instructions.

BENGT KJELLGREN

President



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