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OSHA Initiating Tougher Rules on Combustible Dust

May 4, 2009
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is initiating a comprehensive rulemaking on combustible dust.

OSHA will issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and convene related stakeholder meetings to evaluate possible regulatory methods and request data and comments on issues related to combustible dust such as hazard recognition, assessment, communication, defining combustible dust, and other concerns.

Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions. These include 14 people who were killed in a dust explosion February 7, 2008, at an Imperial Sugar Co. plant in Georgia and three workers who were burned in April 2009 in an Illinois pet food plant dust explosion.

"Over the years, combustible dust explosions have caused many deaths and devastating injuries that could have been prevented," said secretary of labor, Hilda L. Solis. "OSHA is reinvigorating the regulatory process to ensure workers receive the protection they need while also ensuring that employers have the tools needed to make their workplaces safer."

Combustible dusts are solids finely 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 dusts include metal (aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic or rubber, coal, flour, sugar, and paper, among others.

In 2006, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recommended that OSHA issue a combustible dust standard. OSHA received additional support for a combustible dust standard from the CSB during a congressional hearing in 2008 when the board said a new standard, combined with enforcement and education, could save workers' lives.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html.