California Congressman Files Combustible Dust Bill

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said the bill would require enactment of a final standard within 18 months that would include requirements for hazard assessment, building design, and explosion protection.

Five years after combustible dust explosions heavily damaged the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Ga., exploded, killing 13 workers and injuring many more, U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., the senior Democrat of the Workforce Protections Subcommitte, have introduced a bill to require OSHA to issue a standard regulating combustible industrial dusts. Miller is the ranking member on the House Education and the Workforce Committee; he announced the bill Feb. 8. The Port Wentworth incident occurred Feb. 7, 2008.

Named the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act, H.R. 691 would:

  • Streamline OSHA's process for issuing an interim standard and direct OSHA to issue an interim final combustible dust standard within a year
  • Direct that the standard include requirements for housekeeping, engineering controls, workers' training, and a written combustible dust safety program
  • Apply relevant National Fire Protection Standards, including NFPA 654, that call for dust control
  • Direct OSHA to issue a final standard within 18 months and require it to include relevant parts of NFPA standards.

According to Miller's news release, the final standard would include requirements for hazard assessment, building design, and explosion protection, and the interim standard would remain in effect until the final standard is issued.

Saying workers "cannot be asked to wait any longer for these basic protections," he cited the U.S. Chemical Safety Board's study that identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005. These had killed 119 workers, injured 718 others, and extensively damaged industrial facilities.

"Five years ago, the explosion at the Imperial Sugar Refinery sounded the alarm on this very serious issue," Barrow said. "This legislation makes the workplace safer for folks in my district and across the country and is a common-sense solution to a problem facing our workforce nationwide. In 2008, the House passed this bill, and I encourage the current leadership to bring this bill to the floor as soon as possible."

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