Combustible Dust: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking


Washburn Mill

“OSHA is requesting comments, including data and other information, on issues related to the hazards of combustible dust in the workplace. For the purposes of this notice, the term “combustible dust” includes all combustible particulate solids of any size, shape, or chemical composition that could present a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or other oxidizing medium. OSHA plans to use the information received in response to this notice in developing a proposed standard for combustible dust.”

OSHA is seeking comments until January 19, 2010.

The notice provides some comments on historical combustible dust explosions in grain handling facilities, textile mills, electrical generating facilities, etc. and the rates at which OSHA has noted the occurrences.

Findings from OSHA’s studies from 1980-2008 indicate the following:

  • Many industry and safety professionals lack awareness of combustible dust hazards.
  • The widely recognized standards of good engineering practice in the NFPA’s voluntary consensus standards were not being followed in many facilities.
  • State and local fire codes were ineffective as a viable mechanism to reduce dust explosion risks in general industry nationwide.
  • OSHA’s focus has been on enforcement activities in response to combustible dust incidents.
  • The only comprehensive OSHA standard that specifically addresses combustible dust hazards (the 1987 Grain handling facilities standard) has effectively reduced the risk and consequences of grain-dust explosions, and incorporates many of the same principles that can be found in the NFPA standards.

During the National Emphasis Program, the three most frequently referenced consensus standards were as follows, in descending order of frequency:

  • NFPA 654, Standard for Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
  • NFPA 664, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities
  • NFPA 61, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities

OSHA has preliminarily concluded that national consensus standards alone, even when adopted by State or local governments, are insufficient to adequately protect workers from these hazards.

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