AIHA Questions Dust Rules Timeline

In a letter to House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) President Donald Hart said he supported the legislator's proposed bill, which would compel OSHA to issue an interim and final standard on combustible dust, but questioned whether the agency could finalize such a standard in 18 months.

Miller and Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., introduce H.R. 5522, The Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act, to push OSHA to issue emergency rules within 90 days, including measures to improve housekeeping, engineering controls, building design, explosion protection and worker training, and to finalize those rules within 18 months.

“While AIHA does not wish for any delay in promulgating a final standard, it may be difficult for the agency to promulgate a final standard in this length of time,” the letter read.

Hart asked Miller to take AIHA's concerns into consideration when going forward with the bill. In an email to OccupationalHazards.com, AIHA's Government Affairs Director Aaron Trippler said that it was virtually impossible for a final standard to be issued if it went through the normal procedures of standard setting.

“In order for the public process to be followed, I doubt they can do it in time,” Trippler said. “Unless they do a negotiated rulemaking, I can't see that happening.”

AIHA also asked Miller if another requirement could be added to the bill. Hart said it should read, “Requirements for the periodic inspection and maintenance of engineering controls and equipment, recordkeeping of the results of the inspections, and correction of any problems found during the inspections within a reasonable time.”

Trippler said that AIHA's Engineering Committee has long advocated for this requirement, as the bill currently does not include a stipulation ensuring procedures to track inspection and maintenance requirements.

“In other words, if other requirements are put in place, there is nothing that says they ever have to go back and keep track that those requirements are still being met,” Trippler said.

The letter, however, made it clear that AIHA was firm in its support of Miller's bill. “The issue of protecting workers from the hazards associated with combustible dust has received increased urgency because of the recent explosion at a sugar refinery in Georgia that killed seven workers earlier this year,” the letter read. “AIHA believes there is an urgent need for further action from the agency to address this issue.”

On Wednesday, April 9, the House Education and Labor Committee will vote on H.R. 5522. OccupationalHazards.com will be there to report the results of the bill's mark-up.

For more on the on the combustible dust bill, read Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Prevent More Dust Explosions and OSHA Not Issuing Combustible Dust Standard Anytime Soon.

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