Much talk has been made in recent months about the hazards of combustible dusts and the coming of new safety standards from OSHA relating to these hazards in the workplace. A number of high-profile tragic incidences of industrial dust explosions in the past few years caused OSHA to reissue its National Emphasis Program on Combustible Dusts in March 2008.

Currently, OSHA is involved in the task of developing a new consistent standard that will be enforced under its general duty clause in all industries that handle combustible dusts. It is highly probable that the new standard will draw very heavily on current National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards that relate to the handling of combustible dusts (NFPA 654, 664, 68, 69 and others).

The woodworking industry must recognize that this is a major issue it faces. Why? Because the standards that result will become the codes under which woodworking operations must comply. Compliance comes with costs that may have a major impact on individual woodworking businesses. Therefore it is important that industry take a part in the rule making process.

The NFPA provides two ways in which you can participate and have your voice heard.

1) Submit comments to proposed changes in the standard.
The principal NFPA standard that specifically applies to the woodworking industry is NFPA 664 (Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities). This standard is currently in its 2011 revision cycle and NFPA is actively considering proposed revisions to become part of the standard to be published in 2012. (These documents are revised every 3-5 years).

All interested parties are encouraged to obtain the Report on Proposals (ROP) and make comment on the proposed revisions being considered. It can be accessed by
clicking here. Go to “Next Edition” and click on ”Archived Revision Information” then click “ROP.” A comment form from the website under “ROC” can be downloaded for your use. The deadline to submit comments is September 3, 2010.

2) Participate in the process by joining the NFPA Technical Committee.
The Technical Committee for NFPA 664 is currently seeking industry members. This presents a great and timely opportunity for additional industry representation in the standards formulating process. The NFPA tries to maintain a balance on the committee by appointing individuals from different interest groups such as consultants, enforcement authorities; insurance/loss control people, equipment suppliers and industry (user) representatives.

It is important that the woodworking industry not lack representation on the technical committee because it is the group most directly affected by the outcome of the committee’s work. If you are involved in plant engineering, safety, operations management, industrial hygiene, risk management and related fields in a secondary woodworking operation, it is likely that you have expertise that the NFPA would find valuable.

Please take the time and effort to participate.

Questions? Visit NFPA at www.nfpa.org for more information.

Allen Wagoner is president of Flamex Inc. of Greensboro, NC. The company specializes in spark detection and extinguishing systems used with industrial dust collectors. He can be reached at awagoner@sparkdetection.com.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.