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House committee approves bill addressing dust explosions (4/10)

April 10, 2008
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A House committee on Wednesday passed legislation that would require tougher controls on combustible dust, the Associated Press reports. The bill, by Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and John Barrow, D-Ga., is aimed at preventing industrial dust accidents such as the Feb. 7 blast at a Georgia sugar refinery that killed 13 people.

The bill would require OSHA to issue new regulations within three months requiring industries to better train employees about dust risks and more thoroughly inspect, clean and ventilate their plants. OSHA would be required to finalize its new standards within 18 months.

The measure passed by voice vote, but Republicans signaled that they would oppose the measure if it goes to the floor for final passage.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, a California Republican, reiterated OSHA's position that more study is needed to determine what, if any, "regulatory mandates" would help.

Investigators have blamed the Feb. 7 explosion at the Imperial Sugar plant in Port Wentworth on sugar dust that ignited. The disaster prompted OSHA to step up dust inspections at hundreds of plants across the country.

Combustible dust standards were put in place for the grain industry after a series of explosions in the 1980s, and accidents have fallen sharply since. But OSHA has declined to act on a 2006 recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to enact similar standards for other industries.

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