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Delay in Combustible Dust Rule Won’t Delay Another Accident

Posted on February 16, 2012

Recently, there’s been a flurry of news stories announcing that OSHA has put developing a combustible dust rule on the back burner. Although this is disheartening and goes against the pleas of many safety organizations, including the Chemical Safety Board, it seems to be a course of action that is the norm for OSHA’s rulemaking process. A recent article in Safety+Health magazine points out the delays associated with 5 very popular proposed rules.

  • Beryllium, delayed 9 years
  • Diacetyl, delayed 4 years, 1 month
  • Silica dust, delayed 8 years, 1 month
  • Confined Spaces in Construction, delayed 31 years, 8 months
  • Fall Prevention (Walking/Working Surfaces) delayed 21 years, 7 months

While these numbers may be startling, what’s really scary is the estimated number of health effect cases documented over these delayed time periods. Ready for it… 160,507 serious cases, ranging from lung cancer, chronic beryllium disease, silicosis, to serious nonfatal and fatal injuries.

OSHA has not given much of an explanation regarding their reasoning for moving combustible dust onto the list of long-term agenda items, other than to say, the agency continues to develop the rules, and preventing worker injuries and deaths remains a priority.

Depsite the rulemaking delay, manufacturers need to know that OSHA’s Combustible Duts NEP remains active, and OSHA inspectors are still knocking on manufacturers’ doors citing them for improper housekeeping and a plethora of other combustible dust violations. A delay in the rule process does NOT mean facilities are off the hook. At the end of the day, combustible dust remains a real worker safety threat, and companies are obligated to provide their workers with a safe working environment by ensuring dust accumulations are eliminated or kept to a minimum and that the proper, safe equipment is used to achieve this goal.

After all, a delay in the rule does not delay another accident, another injury, another death.