Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University and contributor of the public health blog, "The Pump Handle," has provided readers an excellent overview of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's Regulatory Plan in her recent post with a discussion of the inner workings of the current Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory actions, which includes Prerules of combustible dust and occupational exposure to silica, beryllium, and diacetyl.
According to the combustible dust prerule, the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is planned in August 2009 (no exact date yet) with stakeholder meetings sometime in December 2009.
It’s very troubling reading the Combustible Dust rulemaking abstract to learn that OSHA will be using information gathered from the reissued Combustible Dust NEP as the agency considers future rulemaking. This document does not provide a clear picture of reality. Especially considering that over 50% of combustible dust related fires and explosions in 2008, though media accounts, occurred in national industires (NAICS), not referenced in this outdated NEP.
Furthermore the 281 combustible dust incidents obtained from the CSB Dust Hazard Study does not address the thousands of incidents that have occurred over the past three decades. A sound occupational safety policy in protecting the workplace can only be formulated when stakeholders fully understand the probability of occurrence in addition to the severity. The CSB study was a great start but much more needs to be done in evaluating the hazard appropriately.
An OSHA comprehensive combustible dust standard is much needed but lets not get all warm and fuzzy by a quick fix like what has previously occurred decades ago with the OSHA Grain Facility Standard in which there was over 50 combustible dust related fires and explosions in 2008. Not counting the rare Feb. 7, 2008 Imperial Sugar Refinery incident, there was more economic damage and workplace injuries in the grain facility sector in 2008 than in the manufacturing sector from combustible dust related fires and explosions.
With such a complex subject as combustible dust spread across hundreds of national industries (NAICS), a negotiated rulemaking process like which occurred with cranes might be a viable option in addition to incorporating a hybrid process safety management (PSM) venue into the rulemaking process.
Agency Rule List - Spring 2009 (Select Dept of Labor in Dropdown)
Introduction to the Unified Agenda (must read ! )
OSHA-Reg-Agenda-Combustible-Dust (1910.307 Hazard Communication ???
OSHA's Regulatory Agenda and Guidance Projects-OSHA ASSE Presentation