OSHA takes first step to propose a combustible dust standard (10/21)
“It’s time for workers to stop dying in preventable combustible dust explosions,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Workplace safety is not a slogan. It’s a priority clearly embodied in our laws.”
“Last year, 14 workers lost their lives in a combustible dust explosion at Imperial Sugar in Port Wentworth, Ga. Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions,” added acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab.
OSHA has been conducting a Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) since October 2007; a status report is available on OSHA’s Combustible Dust Safety and Health Topics page. The NEP has resulted in an unusually high number of general duty clause violations, indicating a strong need for a combustible dust standard. The general duty clause is not as effective as a comprehensive combustible dust standard would be at protecting workers. Responses to questions posed in the ANPR will help the agency propose an effective combustible dust standard.
Support for a combustible dust standard came from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board in 2006 and again in 2008 during a congressional hearing when the board said a new standard, combined with enforcement and education, could save workers’ lives.
Combustible dusts are solids ground into fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air under certain conditions. Types of dust likely to combust include metal (aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic or rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper.
The public has 90 days to comment on the proposed ANPR. The agency also will conduct stakeholder meetings and will analyze all information and comments received from the public in developing a proposed rule on combustible dust.