In the processing of a number of goods including food, grain, plastics, wood, paper, rubber, textiles, metals, as well as during fossil fuel power generation, combustible materials – and some materials normally considered noncombustible – can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form. Given the right concentrations and conditions, this dust can become highly explosive. Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions.
The American workforce was reminded of the dangers of dust in 2008, when an explosion and subsequent fire at a sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia killed 14 workers and left many others seriously injured with severe burns.
Since December 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been conducting a series of stakeholder meetings to gather comments and suggestions for protecting workers from combustible dust hazards in the workplace.
Meetings in Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago were followed by a first-of-its kind virtual stakeholder meeting yesterday, with nearly 400 participants. The goal of these meetings is to use public comments and suggestions in developing a proposed standard for combustible dust.
Over the course of the next two weeks, the OSHA Combustible Dust Team will be keeping this conversation going, using this space to post additional questions related to combustible dust. We want to hear from you on the following topics to help expedite our efforts towards a proposed standard.