Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sparks Fly Combustible Dust Bill

Already even prior to the approved mark-up of the combustible dust bill that passed the House Committee Education and Labor there has been a flurry of high level letters sent to bill's co-sponsors Congressmen George Miller(D-CA) and John Barrow (D-GA). For instance, the Chamber of Commerce and Edwin Foulke, Director of OSHA both oppose the bill in it's current form and and state bluntly in the content of their recent letters . The Department of Labor has even gone to the trouble in taking sides politically through it's recent public statement today after the bill markup success with this statement:

“H.R. 5522 would mandate a one-size-fits all standard for as many as 200,000 worksites throughout the country. Supporters of H.R. 5522 mistakenly believe there are no combustible dust workplace protections, when there are 17 existing OSHA standards. OSHA is currently inspecting facilities with the highest danger of combustible dust. If OSHA determines through these inspections that the standards are not effective in protecting employees, the agency will not hesitate to initiate a rulemaking. ”

It's still a bit of a shock to believe that OSHA's 17 existing standards are working, especially since there has been 30 combustible dust related explosions and fires in the last eight weeks since the Imperial Sugar explosion. How is it that the supporters of H.R. 5522 mistakenly believe that there are no combustible dust workplace protections when dust explosions and fire are occurring every other day?

In a bold move the Chamber of Commerce believes the provisions of the final standard would
be set by legislators rather than the safety and regulatory professionals at OSHA. Thats a far stretch, since over the last five years after the horrific loss of life in numerous combustible dust explosions in 2003, the professionals in management at OSHA stood by idly.

Safety professionals, industry experts, and even representatives from the Department of Labor were part of the committees that drafted the numerous NFPA combustible dust codes that would be instituted in the proposed combustible dust bill

James E. Maness, JEM Safety Consulting, MO [U] Rep. Grain Elevator and Processing Society

Guillermo A. Navas, Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors National Association,

Harry Verakis, U.S. Department of Labor,

David L. Oberholtzer,] Rep. The Aluminum Association

Keith Epperson, American Feed Industry Association,IA [U]

James E. Maness, JEM Safety Consulting, DE [U]Rep. Grain Elevator and Processing Society

Robert J. Moore, Tate & Lyle America, IL [U]Rep. Corn Refiners Association Inc.

Ira C. “Bud” Nation, Archer Daniels Midland Company,IL [U] Rep. National Oilseed Processors Association

Jerry S. Wodzinski, Underwriters Laboratories Inc., IL [RT]

In addition to trade association as members of the NFPA committees, Fortune 500 Companies were also part of drafting the protective combustible dust NFPA fire codes.

David G. Clark, E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

J. Anthony Yount, ConAgra Food Ingredients,

James L. Roberts, Fluor Enterprises, Inc., SC [SE]

Richard F. Schwab, Honeywell, Inc., NJ [U]

Allan J. Johnson, Cargill, Inc., MN [U]

Michael J. Shimer, The Boeing Company, WA [U]

William E. Janz, Swiss Re, Global Asset Protection

Employers will not become more knowledgeable about the hazard solely by the issuance of a Safety and Health Information Bulletin, and the recent re-issuance of the National Emphasis Program. Combustible dust explosions and fires are very complex and the current OSHA reactive voluntary program does not provide the proactive program that is needed.

Instead a National Dust Explosion Research Institute (NDRI) needs to be developed in conjunction with cooperation between academia, trade associations, safety professionals, and regulatory agencies. This is where the leadership at OSHA needs to be heading , instead of butting of heads between labor and industry.

A trip to Norway and Germany would be in order in collaborating with their excellent dust explosion research institutes. In the end this would also provide more jobs in the technical fields. Since we are delving into a technical subject that enters the realm of powder mechanics and computational fluid dynamics. From there industry will absorb the required knowledge of this complex subject.

It is true that the bill would require within 18 months OSHA promulgate a final standard that would carry forward all of the requirements of the interim final rule (IFR). That would be a difficult for many facilities and a compromise needs to be addressed. One answer would be looking into the ATEX Combustible Dust Programs that our global trading and security partners are already using in the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The foundation of the overseas program is an explosion protection document that facilities adhere to. This program institutes a 3-5 year phase in , which we could do the same after the IFR.

Additionally, in regards to testing the ignition sensitvity and explosion severity of combustible dusts, cooperative programs could be implemented between trade associations spread across a wide spectrum of industries. This would cut costs tremendously with the costly analytical laboratory testing from thousands of facilities spread across the nation.

This will be a long haul just like the six years it has taken to complete the finishing touches of Homeland Security after the 2002 Homeland Security Act. But it can be done with cooperation between all stakeholders and the proper leadership at OSHA.

Dust Bill Opposition Letters

Free Viewing Online Access to NFPA 654: Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids, 2006 Edition

H.R. 5522,Combustible Dust Bill Moves to House Floor

This morning at the mark-up of "H.R. 5522, Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act of 2008", the Full Committee of the House Education and Labor voted and agreed that this important bill should move forward onto the House floor. Over the past eight weeks, since the catastrophic Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion there has been 31 combustible dust related explosions and fires, which included six dust explosions in March. In April alone, there's been five combustible dust fires at flooring, paper, dental, and food manufacturing facilities. Luckily no fatalities or injuries in these April incidents. Luck only goes so far at the roulette wheel..


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