OSHA Starts Combustible Dust Rulemaking

OSHA has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in today's edition of the Federal Register as an initial step in development of a standard to address the hazards of combustible dust. "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."

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 agency says the NEP has resulted in an unusually high number of General Duty Clause violations, indicating a strong need for a combustible dust standard. Responses to questions posed in the ANPR will help the agency propose an effective combustible dust standard.

"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," said Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

Support for a standard came from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board in 2006 and again in 2008 during a congressional hearing, when the chairman 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.

To view a PDF of the ANPR, click here.

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