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Safety

Action Sought on Dust Explosions

November 13, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 46

The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) recommended late last week that federal agencies take action to protect workers from industrial dust explosions and fires. The recommendations grew from a two-year board investigation of the hazards of combustible dust. In 2003, 14 workers were killed and another 81 were injured in three industrial accidents that were fueled by combustible dust, CSB notes. Between 1980 and 2005, CSB adds, 119 workers were killed and 718 were injured in nearly 300 dust-related accidents. Combustible dust accumulates in many chemically related manufacturing facilities, CSB notes, and once ignited, the dust leads to explosive accidents. The board recommends that OSHA issue national standards to control risk of accumulated dust, noting that OSHA fines businesses after accidents occur but hasn't taken preventive actions. The board also recommends that the American National Standards Institute modify its standard for hazardous industrial chemicals so that material safety data sheets include warnings about combustible dust. A smattering of dust standards exist, CSB says, under the National Fire Protection Association and some state regulations, which could serve as a model for federal requirements. OSHA has 180 days to respond to the board.

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