OSHA Seeks Comments for Planned Combustible Dust Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published in today’s Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) (pdf) calling for public comment, data, and other input to help the agency develop a standard to address the fire and explosion hazards associated with combustible dust. For the purposes of the ANPRM, “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.”

Earlier this year, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor committee, Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, reintroduced the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act (CDEFA) (H.R. 849), a bill that would, among other things, require OSHA to issue interim rules on combustible dust within 90 days, followed by final rules within 18 months. The impetus for this bill was the February 7, 2008 explosion caused by combustible sugar dust at the Imperial Sugar Refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia.

Industries believed to be at risk of combustible dust hazards include, among others, agriculture, animal food manufacturing, grain handling, food manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, textile manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, metal processing, fabricated metal products and machinery manufacturing, pesticide manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, tire manufacturing, production of rubber and plastics, plastics and rubber products manufacturing, recycling, wastewater treatment, and coal handling and processing.

According to the advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the existing regulatory regime addressing combustible dust is fragmented and incomplete. To that end, OSHA is soliciting responses and data on a series of 69 questions in various subject areas to gain a better understanding of the form and scope of the anticipated rule. These questions seek comment on such topics as the definition of combustible dust, hazard communication and training, state and local codes, investigation of incidents, economic impacts and benefits, impacts on small entities, and compliance assistance. The agency invites the public to respond to any questions for which they have specific knowledge, data, or information, regardless of their involvement with combustible dust. Commenters are not limited to the questions presented, and are encouraged to address any aspect of combustible dust safety that they believe would assist OSHA in considering appropriate regulatory action in this area.

All comments are due by January 19, 2010, and may be sent by regular mail, express delivery, hand (courier) delivery, and messenger service to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2009-0023 (or Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1218-AC41), Technical Data Center, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. Three copies of comments and any additional material (e.g., studies, journal articles) must be submitted, and must include the Agency name and the OSHA docket number or RIN for this rulemaking (i.e., OSHA Docket No.OSHA-2009-0023 or RIN 1218-AC41). Alternatively, comments may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, or via facsimile: (202) 693-1648 (fax submissions must be limited to 10 pages in length). Hard copies of lengthy attachments that supplement these comments (e.g., studies, journal articles), must be sent in triplicate to the OSHA Docket Office, Technical Data Center, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20210. These attachments must clearly identify the commenter’s name, date, subject, and docket number (i.e., OSHA-2009-0023) so the Agency can attach them to the appropriate comments.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.