Over the past year, OSHA has been acting under a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to address combustible dust hazards at facilities. This NEP identifies the industries where combustible dust may be present and establishes an inspection schedule for these facilities. In August 2009, OSHA will issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for combustible dust hazards where the Administration will begin evaluating the regulatory methods for reducing the hazards from combustible dust.
This means that combustible dust regulations will be in the works, and when they are issued, facilities will be required to adhere to them. Though the rules have not yet been written, it is important to note that OSHA is currently issuing citations for combustible dust hazards at facilities. These fines are being issued under the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a workplace that is free of hazards likely to cause serious injury or death. To avoid costly citations and prevent fires and explosions, it is important that your facility identify and eliminate combustible dust hazards. This means conducting a hazard analysis, developing a combustible dust safety program, conducting employee training, and installing fire prevention and protection where needed.