OSHA Unwraps Combustible Dust Topics Page

OSHA told the world yesterday about its new Combustible Dust Safety and Health Topics page, www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html, yesterday and noted that it contains a link to the agency's ongoing National Emphasis Program on Combustible Dust. Various stakeholders have pushed for action after the latest disaster suspected of being started by a dust explosion, the Port Wentworth, Ga. Imperial Sugar plant blast and fire last month. As of yesterday, three burn patients were in serious condition and eight others were in critical condition at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, recovering from burns suffered in the incident. Five patients originally admitted to the center have been discharged and four have died.

Today, former U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Chairman Carolyn Merritt co-wrote an op-ed column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution castigating OSHA and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for failing to enact a combustible dust standard as CSB requested in 2006.

"Fires and explosions resulting from combustible dust can pose a significant danger at the workplace," said agency chief Edwin Foulke Jr. "This new safety and health topics page is part of a long-term, ongoing program in OSHA to address these hazards and assure safe and healthful working conditions." The page mentions some of the substances that are combustible in dust form, including food products, coal, metals, grains, wood, and plastics. An OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib073105.html) on combustible dust dangers is also linked from the page.

It makes available OSHA standards that are relevant to dust hazards, including standards for hazard communication, housekeeping, emergency action plans, ventilation, and hazardous locations.

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