Tuesday, December 08, 2009

OSHA Schedules Stakeholder Meetings on Combustible Dust

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it will hold two stakeholder meetings on December 14, 2009, to discuss combustible dust workplace hazards . The meetings will be held at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST at the Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th Street NW, Washington, DC. The 2010 meeting dates and locations will be announced in one or more subsequent notices.

The effort is intended to prevent the kind of blast that ravaged Imperial’s Port Wentworth refinery on Feb. 7, 2008, killing 14 people and hurting many others. Investigators have concluded highly explosive sugar dust fueled the inferno. The federal government says that since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions. Existing OSHA rules spell out employers’ “general duty” under the law to keep workplaces safe. But they don’t protect workers as well as a comprehensive dust standard would, said OSHA spokesman Michael Wald.

"Workers are dying from combustible dust explosions, and it must stop," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Worker safety must be a priority, and we are committed to enforcing effective standards to prevent a repeat of these tragedies."

OSHA believes the stakeholder meeting discussion should center on major issues such as:
• Possible regulatory approaches
• Scope
• Organization of a prospective standard
• The role of consensus standards
• Economic impacts
• Additional topics as time permit

OSHA will use comments and information gathered from these meetings and responses to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in developing a comprehensive standard addressing fire and explosion hazards of combustible dust.

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