regulationsA rule to establish standards for combustible dust that’s been in the works since 2009 is scheduled to move closer to completion in 2014, with a proposed draft regulation due this spring.

Worker safety advocates and agencies like the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have expressed frustration over OSHA’s failure to make faster progress in making a combustible dust regulatory change.

Some history

After investigating a series of fatal explosions and fires and finding that companies ignored the hazard or failed to take actions to mitigate the danger, the CSB in 2006 recommended a standard based on existing National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) dust explosion standards. 

A 2008 explosion of combustible sugar dust at the Imperial Sugar Company in Georgia that killed 14 workers, three iron dust-related flash fires at the Hoeganaes Corporation facility in Gallatin, Tennessee that killed five workers prompted additional calls for action. The CSB urged OSHA to issue a proposed rule within one year, and recommended the inclusion of metal dusts new standard.

A known, insidious hazard

“The Board has called on OSHA a number of times over the past several years to act on this known, insidious hazard that continues to claim the lives of workers and cause enormous damage and loss of jobs,” said CSB Chairperson Moure-Eraso. “It’s critical that OSHA address the recommendations.”    

Combustible dust is blamed for a large number of worker fatalities and injuries, and is a hazard in industries ranging from manufacturing, food processing, textiles, pesticides and coal.

OSHA has estimated the annual cost of implementing the rule at more than $100 million, which is expected to draw opposition from business groups.