“The issue of protecting workers from the hazards associated with combustible dust has received increased urgency because of the 2008 explosion at a sugar refinery in Georgia that resulted in 14 worker fatalities and 60 workers seriously injured,” AIHA President Lindsay E. Booher wrote.
In March 2008, OSHA reissued its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) to increase enforcement activities, and the agency also announced it would inspect facilities that create or handle combustible dusts. The AIHA letter, however, suggests that the NEP may not be enough to protect workers, and that AIHA is concerned that the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) “inadequately addresses dust explosion hazards and fails to ensure safe work practices and guidance documents are included in MSDSs.”
“Because of this, AIHA believes there is an urgent need for further action from the agency to address this issue,” Booher wrote. “AIHA supports HR 849 that directs the Secretary of Labor to promulgate an interim final standard regulating combustible dusts and a final standard not later than 18 months after enactment of HR 849.”
The letter offered two comments on HR 849 for Miller and the Committee to consider. First, AIHA would like to see an additional requirement “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.”
In addition, AIHA also suggested that the Committee should “determine whether or not it is possible for OSHA to promulgate a final standard within 18 months of enactment of the legislation.” The letter stressed that while AIHA does not wish to delay a final standard, the association recognizes it could be difficult for OSHA to promulgate a final standard within the 18-month time frame.
“It is our hope HR 849 will be the starting point for further debate and action on combustible dust. We are also hopeful this issue is one of the first priorities for the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA when an individual is confirmed for the position. We support HR 849 and your efforts,” Booher wrote.