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 Feb. 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 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.