OSHA Offers Combustible Dust Safety Information

After the February 7, 2008, accident at the Imperial Sugar Refinery plant in Savannah, Georgia, that resulted in 14 deaths and 38 injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Combustible Dust Safety and Health Topics created a Web page to help employers address hazardous combustible dust and provide recommendations to prevent and control these hazards.

The agency said fires and explosions resulting from combustible dust can pose a significant danger at the workplace, and the new safety and health topics page is part of a long-term, ongoing program in OSHA to address these hazards and assure safe and healthful working conditions.

Certain combustible substances, when divided into a dust-like form and suspended in air, can become explosive. Industries that have combustible dust include food (for example, candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour and feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (for example, aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium and zinc) and fossil fuel power generation. Combustible dust may have been a cause of the explosion at the Georgia sugar refinery plant, OSHA said.

At least 280 dust explosions have occurred since 1980, and such blasts killed 119 people between 1980 and 1995, according to a federal report issued in 2006. Five of the explosions involved sugar plants.

To view the Web page, go to: www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html.

An OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin at www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib073105.html reminds employers of the dangers associated with combustible dust and encourages employers to address such hazards at their worksites

OSHA has in place many relevant standards to address combustible dust hazards "including requirements for hazard communication, housekeeping, emergency action plans, ventilation and hazardous locations."

The Web page features a link to the National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Combustible Dust that provides information on compliance with existing standards, an understanding of the hazard, and methods of abatement and collection of data for analysis. The new page also incorporates information on directives as well as OSHA and national census standards.

NEP Status Report


Under the South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for providing their employees a safe and healthy workplace.