Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Combustible Dust Hazards OSHA Rulemaking

In the near future OSHA will be accepting comments and data concerning a future combustible dust regulation, through an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). A very informative definition of the entire rulemaking process can be found on Wikipedia.

The helpful informational YouTube video is a brief overview of how the rulemaking process proceeds according to the Administrative Procedures Act

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This optional step entails publishing the agency's initial analysis of the subject matter, often asking for early public input on key issue. Any data or communications regarding the upcoming rule would be made available to the public for review. Occasionally, a board of potentially affected parties is comprised to do give-and-take bargaining over rulemaking subject-matter which would otherwise result in deadlocked opposition by an interested party.[2]This is commonly called "negotiated rulemaking"[2], and results in more custom-tailored proposed rule.

Did OSHA miss a step here in not allowing negotiated rulemaking with such a complex subject?

The ANPRM is an ideal time for all stakeholders to provide input on the very complex topic of combustible dust hazards in the workplace. Especially when the current data provided by the Chemical Safety Board concerning the number of workplace combustible dust incidents since 1980 is inaccurate. Additionally, input from stakeholders would assist OSHA in acquiring a better overview of the current situation concerning combustible dust related fires and explosions. The reissued OSHA Combustible Dust NEP has left out many national industries (NAICS) that are experiencing repetitive combustible dust incidents.

Any attempt to model a general industry combustible dust standard after the OSHA Grain Facility Standard would not be wise. Especially when in 2008 there was over 50 combustible dust related fires and explosions in the grain industry, which included 15 explosions according to media reports. Furthermore, the OSHA press release notes a recent grain facility explosion (SIC 2048) that occured last month, injuring three workers in Illinois in the same sentence as the Imperial Sugar incident. Dust explosions cannot be entirely prevented, only the probability and severity reduced through administrative controls and best engineering practices as outlined in the NFPA combustible dust standards.

A hybrid of the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) concerning combustible dust would be the most appropiate venue and would include layers of protection not yet mentioned in the NFPA combustible dust standards. Stakeholder input is vital in this area with combustible dust incidents that involve deflagrations similiar in explosive severity as flammable gases, liquids, and

Below is a brief overview of the timeline for the current OSHA Grain Facility Standard 29 CFR 1910.272 which was formulated over two decades ago in protecting workers from grain dust explosions.

Overview: Rulemaking Process Grain Facilty Standard

  • 1977, deaths of 13 USDA inspectors killed in grain elevator explosions prompted USDA to set up a special task force on grain elevator safety and explosions
  • 1978 , National Academy of Sciences (NAS) conducted an international symposium on grain elevator explosions. Following the symposium, OSHA requested NAS to establish a Panel on Causes and Prevention of Grain Elevator Explosions
  • 1979, a General Accounting Office (GAO) study on grain dust explosions recommended that the U.S. Department of Labor evaluate the adequacy of the coverage for grain elevators in the OSHA general industry standards
  • 1980, OSHA published a request for comments and information and notice of public meetings, concerning the safety and health hazards in grain handling facilities
  • 1984, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR)
  • 1987, OSHA Grain Handling Facilities Final Rule published
  • 1988, effective date OSHA Grain Handling Facilities Final Rule
  • 1989, a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) v. OSHA
  • 1990 OSHA issued an ANPRM
  • 1996, OSHA amended its Grain Handling Standard
  • November 8, 1996, OSHA issued a compliance directive, CPL 2-1.4C, "Inspection of Grain Handling Facilities."



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