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Combustible Dust: Know the Facts

Posted on May 21, 2015

In 2013, the need for a general industry combustible dust standard was on the CSB’s “Most Wanted” list. The CSB identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that led to the deaths of 119 workers, injured 718, and extensively damaged numerous industrial facilities.

The issue made an appearance on OSHA’s 2014 agenda. However, the standard was later downgraded from “pre-rule” to “long-term action.” Earlier this year, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) urged OSHA again for a combustible dust standard after a U.S. Ink fire report.

OSHA 2014 Agenda

OSHA 2014 Agenda

The current OSHA Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) contains policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that generate and handle combustible dusts. The NEP also encourages inspectors to refer relevant NFPA standards for hazard recognition and abatement methods. Fines may be levied as a result of a violation.

Some sample inspection questions include:

  • Does the facility have a housekeeping program with regular cleaning frequencies established for floors and horizontal surfaces, such as ducts, pipes, hoods, ledges, and beams, to minimize dust accumulations within operating areas of the facility?
  • Under the housekeeping program, is the dust on floors, structural members, and other surfaces removed concurrently with operations?
  • Is there dust accumulation of 1/32 inch thick, or greater? Are electrically- powered cleaning devices, such as sweepers or vacuum cleaners used in dusty areas, approved for the hazard classification, as required under 1910.307(b)?

To learn more about recent regulations and recommendations for handling combustible dust, watch Combustible Dust Mythbusting: The Facts You Need to Stay Safe