Saturday, November 7, 2009

Read the OSHA General Industry Standards Lately?

Out of curiosity I thought I'd review a few of the applicable OSHA General Industry Standards as they relate to combustible dust citations. This interest especially came about after the recent OSHA STATUS REPORT on the COMBUSTIBLE DUST NATIONAL EMPHASIS PROGRAM. In addition to General Duty Clause citations for combustible dust, facilities are also cited due to violations of the OSHA General Industry Standards. For example the status report lists several general industry regulations violations in Figure 6. Number of Combustible Dust Related Violations

The report states, "Hazard Communication standard is the standard most frequently cited with respect to combustible dust related hazards, followed by the housekeeping standard." On a prior ComDust post mention was made of the powered industrial trucks, which was the third most cited general industry violation. But then I got to thinking, "what about the OSHA Ventilation Standard 1910.94"?

OSHA Ventilation Standard

Reviewing the standards online it is interesting to note that 1910.94 is mostly concerned with industrial hygiene as it relates to grinding, polishing, buffing, abrasive blasting, and spray finishing operations. Elements of combustible dust fire and explosion protection is noted briefly in the definitions applicable to ventilation 1910.94(a)(2)(iii). Specifically, incorporated by reference as specified in § 1910.6. National Fire Protection Association Explosion Venting Guide, NFPA 68-1954. Okay that's great. But what does that 1954 at the end of NFPA 68 mean? After-all it is over a half a century later, here in 2009. That couldn't mean the year 1954, no way..?

Well as I always do, and ending up getting in more trouble, I decided to turn up more rocks and find out for myself. Sure enough a click here and a select there, and I'm on the NFPA site viewing NFPA 68 and reading the origins and development of NFPA 68. Well sure enough, NFPA was first printed as a guide using "rules of thumb," for explosions venting. I believe that was before the Russian Sputnik satellite was launched, which initiated America's space race.

ComDust NEP Status Report
The recent ComDust NEP status report summarizes some General Duty Clause citations issued by OSHA under the Combustible Dust NEP. Nearly half of these GDC citations in the summary have to do with ventilation such as ductwork, dust collectors, air handling, etc. It appears facility stakeholders have no clue in proper ventilation best engineering practices and procedures in minimizing the combustible dust fire and explosion hazards. Well after reviewing the OSHA ventilation standards and noting the sparsity of any information and guidance except reference to an over half a century NFPA standard it's no wonder there are so many of these GDC citations.

Now the primary argument in the recently published OSHA combustible dust ANPRM that a separate combustible dust standard is needed and in a recent OSHA news release is:

"The NEP has resulted in an unusually high number of general duty clause violations, indicating a strong need for a combustible dust standard. The general duty clause is not as effective as a comprehensive combustible dust standard would be at protecting workers."

Overhaul General Industry Standards

Of course there would be an unusually high number of GDC's especially with the outdated OSHA General Industry Standards, that were written over three decades ago. Smoke and mirrors are fine and dandy attending the circus once a year when it comes to town. But how can we even begin to start a national discourse on any separate standard when the problem lies squarely in a much needed overhaul of the OSHA General Industry Standards?

Look at HazCom, no mention of the physical properties issue as it relates to midstream in the manufacturing life-cycle. Housekeeping is hidden beneath Subpart D: Walking-Working Surfaces and can't even find the word "fire" in the General Requirements. Then there is PPE, with chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants. What about PPE for thermal radiation hazards from flash fires?

Conclusion
The list goes on and on with these outdated OSHA General Industry Standards that don't reflect the current situation in the workplace that was not initially acknowledged in an entirely different era of the 1970's when our American troops were in Vietnam and it was still cool to go to the movie drive-in, watching the Godfather.

Protection of the workplace from hazards will need dozens more separate standards like the proposed combustible dust standard, if the dire situation continues in not addressing the current outdated General Industry Standards. So have you read them lately?

4 comments:

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Rsinclair said...

John:
Do you have any information on the size of the firms that have experienced combustible dust explosions? Are they all "large" employers? Is this a problem for small businesses? Are explosions/fires in smaller operations reported in any organized way?
Ray Sinclair
Rsinclair@cdc.gov

John Astad said...

Ray, I'd like to emphasize that combustible dust incidents are combustible dust related fires in 80% of the time during 2008. The fires, precursors to explosions unfortunately are being ignored.

A majority of incidents occur at small business facilities. Overall there is no organized manner that these incidents are being reported. The CSB also reported this deficiency in the 2006 Dust Hazard Study.

In addition to media reports, the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS)is a good resource but does not cover the entire incident reporting arena

jesse said...

John
Thanks for this wonderful conglomeration of safety meets business. You highlight many of the key issues that leave small businesses with a "deer in the headlights" look on their face when they get a OSHA fine for an issue they didn't know existed.

 

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