Explosions are happening in nearly 20% of incidents and repeatable incidents over 30% . The dust collector is involved in over 40% of events, either from a spark traveling downstream through the duct work or ignition originating locally in the air material separator.
General Duty Clause
Reviewing over 4,500 OSHA inspection reports on the IMIS Database that CSHO's have completed in the last twelve months and comparing with all the NAICS in Appendix D-1/D-2 of the OSHA Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) Directive, resulted in 24 combustible dust General Duty Clause citations.
None of the GDC combustible dust citations occurred in a locale with a State OSHA Plan. According to the OSHA Combustible Dust NEP, it's strictly voluntary for these states to conduct targeted NAICS inspections and enforcement for combustible dust violations as outlined in the NEP. This presents a huge problem and a distorted picture of actions concerning federal OSHA offices in conjunction with the overall Combustible Dust NEP program.
North Carolina leads the OSHA State Plans in conducting inspections with an emphasis on combustible dust at manufacturing facilities throughout the state. In contrast, CHSO's from Pennsylvania federal OSHA offices lead the nation issuing General Duty Clause citations for combustible dust.
Prior Dust Inspections
Additionally, the media and congressional leaders have absorbed the political spin of an independent governmental investigative agency that submitted recommendations to OSHA in 2006. An emotional knee jerk reaction to the recent Imperial Sugar Refinery dust explosion and prior catastrophic dust explosions in 2003 in conjunction with the CSB recommendations resulted in drafting a combustible dust bill that now awaits a vote in the Senate.
After several congressional hearings on combustible dust, the word out on the street is that OSHA is not doing it's job in enforcement and inspection activities concerning combustible dust. How can this be, especially when Federal OSHA offices have been citing facilities on combustible dust violations for many years prior to the Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion?
In contrast, according to media accounts, over 50% of combustible dust explosions in the last seven months have occurred in states with State OSHA Plans, where an organized proactive Combustible Dust NEP is absent. Basically, there are two different and totally separate OSHA's nationwide, which is divided amongst Federal and State offices. Collecting data of recent combustible dust incidents reinforces the fact of two separate OSHA entities.
A comprehensive combustible dust regulation will not solve the problem of preventable combustible dust related explosions and fires. It's only through the combined efforts of State and Federal OSHA offices in conjunction with local fire inspectors where the complex combustible dust issue can be addressed properly.
OSHA does not have the personnel and financial resources to inspect more than 10% of manufacturing facilities in the nation. What about the other 90% ? Cooperation with state and local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is the direction all stakeholders should be championing in developing a proactive comprehensive combustible dust plan. Not a comprehensive combustible dust regulation with the absent financial backing.
Costly Dust Testing
Incident data illustrating State OSHA Plan inactivity does not truly represent the entire situation. For example, additional funding is needed for combustible dust testing in manufacturing facilities, which would enhance State OSHA inspection and enforcement activity. Laboratory testing at the OSHA Salt Lake Technical Center for ignition sensitivity and explosion severity is very expensive, costing thousands of dollars.
Why wasn't this crucial aspect of the combustible dust bill discussed during the several congressional hearings? Who is going to pay ? It all looks good on paper and makes one feel warm and fuzzy but the reality begins to sink in when viewing the data of what actually is occuring.
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