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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [10/20/2009]
Contact Name: Diana Petterson
Phone Number: (202) 693-1898
Release Number: 09-1074-NAT

US Labor Departmentís OSHA addresses need for combustible dust standard

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking solicits comments from public

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in the Oct. 21 edition of the Federal Register as an initial step in development of a standard to address the hazards of combustible dust.

"It's time for workers to stop dying in preventable combustible dust explosions," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Workplace safety is not a slogan. It's a priority clearly embodied in our laws."

"Last year, 14 workers lost their lives in a combustible dust explosion at Imperial Sugar in Port Wentworth, Ga. Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions," added acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab.

OSHA has been conducting a Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) since October 2007; a status report is available at http://www.osha.gov/dep/combustibledust/NEP-status-report.pdf. 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. Responses to questions posed in the ANPR will help the agency propose an effective combustible dust standard.

Support for a combustible dust standard came from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board in 2006 and again in 2008 during a congressional hearing when the board said a new standard, combined with enforcement and education, could save workers' lives.

Combustible dusts are solids ground into fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air under certain conditions. Types of dust likely to combust include metal (aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic or rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper.

The Federal Register notice is available at http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2009-25075_PI.pdf. The public has 90 days to comment on the proposed ANPR. The agency also will conduct stakeholder meetings and will analyze all information and comments received from the public in developing a proposed rule on combustible dust.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.