A federal workplace safety agency is seeking public input through Jan. 19 in developing regulations to reduce the potential for disasters because of combustible dust.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in Wednesday's edition of the Federal Register.
OSHA started its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program Oct. 18, 2007, to inspect facilities generating or handling combustible dusts posing an explosion or other fire hazard. Labor Department officials say there continues to be a high number of employers not taking adequate steps to reduce harm to employees, proving the need for a comprehensive combustible dust standard.
"It's time for workers to stop dying in preventable combustible dust explosions," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in a news release. "Workplace safety is not a slogan. It's a priority clearly embodied in our laws."
Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions, said Jordan Barab, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. At least one worker died and two were injured in 2003 after an explosion of aluminum dust near an aluminum chip melting furnace at a now-shuttered Hayes Lemmerz automotive parts plant in Huntington, Ind., according to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The Labor Department said the board -- which is an independent federal agency -- also supports a standard being developed.
Combustible dusts are solids ground into fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that can cause a fire or an explosion when suspended in air under certain conditions. Types of dust likely to combust include metals such as aluminum and magnesium, wood, plastic or rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper.
Online comments can be sent electronically through regulations.gov, click on the "submit a comment" tab and type "1218-AC41" in the keyword search field. Fax submissions less than 10 pages can be sent to (202) 693-1648. Three copies of submissions can be sent to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2009-0023, Technical Data Center, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210.
Wednesday's edition of the Federal Register it can be found at