DualDraw representatives recently attended the Power Bulk & Solids Conference in Chicago, May 6th-8th.  It was here they were able to attend a particularly interesting educational seminar on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP). The NEP works to enforce OSHA combustible dust guidelines by inspecting facilities that generate or handle combustible dusts.explode1

From 2009-2013 there have been 57 combustible dust incidents that have killed 26 people and injured 129. NFPA 654(2013) defines combustible dust as “a finely divided combustible particulate solid that presents a flash fire hazard or explosion hazard when suspended in air or the process-specific oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations.”  Combustible dust explosions are caused by the buildup of grains, plastics, and metals on factory floors, equipment, or beams; all it needs is just one spark (or even static electricity) to ignite the dust causing entire building structures to topple.

Examples of Combustible Dusts

examplesSource: OSHA Poster (2008): Combustible Dust: Does your company or firm process any of these products or materials from this combustible materials list in powdered form?

Such was the case in the 2008 Imperial Sugar explosion in Port Wentworth, Georgia; the sugar refining process created enough combustible dust to destroy the building and take the lives of 14 individuals. Promised federal rules to manage accumulated combustible dust have made little progress in the six years that have since lapsed.

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Mark Knezovich, M.S., an OSHA industrial hygienist from its enforcement program, spoke to the problems they face in setting standards for regulating dust. He spent time highlighting the challenge in drafting legislation that is economically and technically feasible for a multitude of businesses. Even data analysis is difficult because OSHA does not track all incidents. Critics emphasize that OSHA needs to work on better enforcing the regulations it already has in play rather than work on creating new rules.

Steps are slowly being made towards the end goal of creating specific combustible dust rules. OSHA wants to initiate the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) this summer, postponed from its original scheduled release in November 2013. SBREFA is considered to be the next step in the process, and it allows representatives of small businesses (500 or fewer employees) to review the proposed standard and suggest changes to the rule or to OSHA’s preliminary economic analysis.

From the NEP data shared at the Power Bulk and Solids conference from October 2007 to December 2013 OSHA has done 2,531 inspections with citations that resulted in a combined total of $28.7 million in fines.

Take steps to prevent such actions at your facilities. Contact DualDraw today to help you navigate the complex regulatory environment as it pertains to combustible dust. Our sales engineers can work with you to select one of our solutions or customize your own solution that is the right fit you for your application, always keeping in mind compliance to NFPA and OSHA combustible dust standards. Feel free to reach out to us at 303-853-4083, or Contact DualDraw to send us an email.