Safety and OSHA News

Combustible dust regulation on the fast track

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and OSHA interim administrator Jordan Barab have said that a new combustible dust regulation is one of their rulemaking priorities at OSHA.

And the rulemaking process is moving along.

OSHA has submitted the proposed regulation to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

That news comes in the wake of the Chemical Safety Board’s recent release of its investigation into the explosion and fire that killed 14 and injured 36 at the Imperial Sugar plant in Wentworth, GA.

In a 25-year period, 281 combustible dust explosions and fires killed 119 workers and injured 718.

A number of OSHA standards address aspects of combustible dust control, including those on housekeeping, emergency action plans, ventilation, spray finishing, permit required confined spaces and electric power generation.

Do you think a separate OSHA standard on combustible dust is necessary? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below, and take our Quick Poll on our home page.

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  1. Yes, OSHA should have a separate standard for combustible dust. At Fauske & Associates, LLC, we think its about time that there was a rule – we address the need now. There is a rule on handling flammable / combustible liquids and gases. Why not explosible dusts if it is a workplace safety issue?

  2. Well that is a complex question. The easy and fast answer is yes. There does need to be the wording of combustible dust in the OSHA standards. A separate standard for combustible dust is the fast and easy solution. But is won’t eliminate dust explosions, only reduce the probability and reduce the severity. The OSHA Grain Standard is an excellent example. Last year there was a dozen explosions in the grain sector.

    What is needed and is what has been done for nearly two decades in addressing propagating explosions in the refinery and chemical sector is the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM). Why reinvent the wheel with mountains of more bureaucracy? Already the NFPA combustible dust standards have many elements of PSM. Such as management of change, process hazard analysis, etc.

    Combustible dust needs to be under the same umbrella as flammable gases, vapors, mists, and liquid like what has been implemented in the EU with ATEX directives. The explosion protection document (EPD) of ATEX is an excellent example of identifying and evaluating the risk. Until stakeholders acknowledge that dust provides an explosive atmosphere like flammable gases, then we will still have a long way to go separate standard for combustible dust or not.

    OSHA has been citing for combustible dust for years, even before the CSB 2006 Dust Hazard Study was released. OSHA inspectors cited violators with the General Dust Clause, referencing NFPA combustible dust standards. Enforcement and inspection with separate standard for combustible dust will do the same , no change. Just a warm and fuzzy feeling we’ll all get. Will Congress appropriate billions of dollars in hiring more inspectors for enforcement and inspection of all the facilites for ComDust? It’s like declaring war and then not have resources to send the troops.

    Many do not know but much of this standard being written has more to do with politics, governmental career advancement, and a bit of emotion thrown in following Imperial Sugar incident. Sound science and critical analysis has been left at the wayside. The way things stand now formulating the standard solely on the CSB recommendations and the OSHA Dust NEP will omit many layers of protection that have never been discussed in the national health and safety arena.

    I vote for a hybrid PSM for ComDust. That’s my two cents after analyzing this complex subject full-time for the last 18 months.

  3. Larry Ward says:

    No matter what type of standard comes out the bottom line is that if each state does not have emough compliance officers, thus the same old end will presist. Most employers have the mind set that I will go on with the same old thoughts as in the past; I will go on with what I have and wait for OSHA to catch me, and then I will pay the fine. In a nut shell OSHA needs to up the amount of fines.

  4. Yes, a new regulation will be effective only if other mesaures are taken, as example, availability of enough compliance officers. The new regulation should be integrated with other OSHA directives (as other requirements already stated for electrical services, health, safety etc), implying that the employer be responsible to organize a whole “Safety System Management”.

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