OSHA will hold a Combustible Dust Expert Forum May 13, 2011 in order to gather experts' views on possible regulatory options for addressing combustible dust hazards.

Discussions will include identifying regulatory options that can minimize the costs to small- and medium-sized businesses of reducing or preventing combustible dust hazards, while protecting workers from these hazards. Representatives from various industries, academia, research groups, insurance-underwriter organizations, labor, and government will comprise expert representation.

OSHA's earlier efforts to address combustible dust hazards included a National Emphasis Program in 2007 that targeted inspection efforts on facilities that create or handle combustible dusts. Results from these inspections indicated that facilities had unusually high numbers of general duty clause violations, indicating a strong need for a combustible dust standard. This effort was followed by publication of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2009, from which the agency received more than 100 comments. Additionally, OSHA held six stakeholders meetings and conducted a Web chat on combustible dust to expand the opportunity for public and stakeholder participation. The agency recognizes the importance of considering options for addressing combustible dust hazards, particularly as they may affect small facilities, in preparation for convening a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel.

Combustible dusts include fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that, under certain conditions, can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air. Types of dusts include metal (for example, aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic, rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper, among others.

The forum will be held at 9 a.m. at the Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. There will be limited space available for non-participating observers, so OSHA asks that only one representative from interested organizations register as an observer. To register as a non-participating observer, contact Bill Hamilton at 202-693-2077 by May 6, 2011.