Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ill Advised Combustible Dust Bill


The current combustible dust bill waiting for a vote in the Senate and passed earlier in the House is a faulty draft of proposed OSHA health and safety legislation. Posing as a quick fix with no bite, due to the lack of OSHA resources. Policy- makers failed to take in account the magnitude of the problem with the prevalence of combustible dust fires and explosions occurring across a wide swath of the manufacturing sector.


Furthermore, utilizing OSHA’s Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP), as recommended by the Chemical Safety Board does not fully address many manufacturing sectors that are experiencing combustible dust explosions and fires that were not included in the NEP.

North America Industrial Classification System (NAICS)
Of particular importance when assessing industries that have a frequent and/or high consequence of combustible dust explosions and fires is an understanding of the North America Industrial Classification System (NAICS), that OSHA utilizes in Appendix D-1 of the Combustible Dust NEP.

NAICS is a six digit hierarchical industry coding and classification system that the Bureau of Labor and the U.S Census Bureau also utilizes to measure economic activity in the United States. It enables policy-makers across a wide spectrum of government to understand the business cycle and how it relates to the flow of trade.

U.S. NAICS example

  • Sector 33 Manufacturing
    • Subsector 339 Miscellaneous Manufacturing
      • Industry Group 3399 Other Miscellaneous Manufacturing
        • Industry 33994 Office Supplies (except Paper) Manufacturing
          • U. S. Industry 339941 Pen and Mechanical Pencil Manufacturing
Older Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system
NAICS groups are divided into 20 sectors, with five sectors goods-producing and fifteen services-producing sectors. The NAICS system replaced the older Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system beginning in 1997. Additionally, there are 474 NAICS industries in the manufacturing sector from a total of 1,170 NAICS industries in contrast to the 1,004 found in the previous SIC.

A confusing aspect of the 2006 Chemical Safety Board, Combustible Dust Hazard Study is that the data spreadsheet referenced combustible dust incidents from 1980-2005 with the old SIC system. For the user of the data, it very difficult to ascertain the specific national industry that experienced combustible dust accidents. In contrast, OSHA began using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) for industry identification back in January 2003.

In addition to Appendix D-1, with the listing of 17 manufacturing NAICS in the OSHA NEP, there is Appendix D-2, listing another 50 manufacturing NAICS. OSHA believes these industries may have potential for combustible dust explosions/fires instead of a high frequency rate like in D-1.

Invisible Industries
This is where the problem arises, in solely relying on the OSHA Combustible Dust NEP as a yardstick for whether or not a manufacturing facility has a dust problem or not. The Combustible Dust Policy Institute has discovered through intensive research utilizing media reports and interviews over the past six months that 64% of the 70 combustible dust related explosions and fires since the Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion are not listed in Appendix D-1/D-2 NAICS list of the OSHA Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP).

Furthermore, of the 16 combustible dust explosions that have occurred, only 50% of the NAICS are listed in the NEP. How can a sound preventative safety policy be instituted if over 50% of the nation’s manufacturing sectors are ignored?

Photo Credit: by exfordy on Flickr "Creative Commons"

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