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OSHA Removes Combustible Dust Standard from Regulatory Agenda

July 24, 2017

OSHA’s spring regulatory agenda, released late last week, does not include the combustible dust standard that the agency has been working on since 2009. OSHA cited “resource constraints and other priorities” as the reason for abandoning this and other rules related to workplace safety.

The agenda is the latest example of the Trump administration following through on its campaign promise to reduce “burdensome” regulations on industry in ways that impact worker safety laws. Both the silica dust and beryllium rules have been delayed, and last month OSHA proposed to revoke certain provisions of the beryllium rule for the construction and shipyard industries.

As with all of the previous moves toward deregulation, the abandonment of the combustible dust standard was applauded by some and scorned by others. Read some of the reactions on Bloomberg BNA, which first reported the story last Friday.

While the current agenda may seem like welcome news in industries where combustible dust is present (food processing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, metalworking, woodworking, and many others), it’s important to keep in mind that OSHA does not need a formal standard to impose penalties. Under the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program, the agency can issue dust-related fines under 18 different CFR standards as well as the General Duty Clause. Those fines can be steep, easily totaling tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In addition, OSHA isn’t the only organization to take combustible dust hazards into account. Measures to mitigate these risks will continue to be a priority for insurance companies when determining premiums. And fire marshals use NFPA codes, including NFPA 652: Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, when inspecting workplaces for fire hazards.

Despite the changing regulatory environment, it’s still in employers’ best interest to understand and prevent hazards, like combustible dust, that can have devastating consequences for their workers and their facilities. Explore these resources to learn more:

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