The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not likely to push forward on a comprehensive combustible dust standard in 2016 due to the complexity of the hazard and an already robust regulatory agenda, according to a report by Brian Dabbs in Bloomberg BNA.

OSHA had earlier targeted August for initiating a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review on combustible dust in the fall 2015 regulatory agenda, but so far the agency hasn’t indicated a commitment to advancing the rulemaking.

According to the Bloomberg BNA report, OSHA officials haven't attended National Fire Protection Association meetings on combustible dust standards-making for at least 18 months. NFPA standards are widely viewed as industry benchmarks for dust deflagration and explosion.

OSHA continues to enforce a set of specific industrywide and sector-specific standards that may be used to cite combustible dust hazards, ranging from surface safeguards to mandates for grain handling facilities. The agency released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on combustible dust in late 2009, and held meetings for the ensuing several months. But following the consultations, the agency hasn't moved forward.

OSHA didn't comment on a timetable for combustible dust rulemaking in 2016 or its collaboration with industry to craft a template for a proposal. Proposed rules often are released following the completion of the SBREFA process.

OSHA defines combustible dust as “all combustible particulate solids of any size, shape or chemical composition that could present a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or other oxidizing medium.” Those solids include wood, sugar, fertilizer, dried blood, textiles, metals and many others. Combustible dust poses risks in virtually all manufacturing sectors.

The complexity of a combustible dust rulemaking may have caught OSHA somewhat by surprise, said Jess McCluer, National Grain and Feed Association director of safety and regulatory affairs.

“This does not appear to be a priority for OSHA like it once was,” said McCluer in a Jan. 11 interview with Bloomberg BNA. “It did appear to be a priority at the beginning of the administration, but after understanding the complexity it seems to have moved to the side. And other issues have moved to the top of the priority list.”

The guidance advises OSHA inspectors on how to cite combustible dust accumulations, using an algorithm that incorporates accumulation height and density, as well as covered surface space. For years, OSHA has relied on a 1/32-inch basis for citation. That guidance supplements the agency's Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program, reissued in 2008.

OSHA's Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program guidance is available at https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_03-00-008.pdf.