WASHINGTON - Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, recently cited his disappointment that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has yet to develop a standard to regulate combustible dust in manufacturing environments.
On the anniversaries of combustible dust-related tragedies at Imperial Sugar and CTA Acoustics, Moure-Eraso criticized OSHA for not getting the job done as the CSB had recommended. The Feb. 7 2008 dust explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, GA, killed 14 workers and injured more than three dozen others. The Feb. 20, 2003 dust explosion at CTA Acoustics of Corbin, KY, claimed seven workers' lives.
In his statement marking the four-year anniversary of the Imperial Sugar tragedy, Moure-Eraso said, "(T)he CSB called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to 'proceed expeditiously' on our 2006 recommendation that OSHA promulgate a new combustible dust standard for general industry. We believe such a standard is necessary to reduce or eliminate hazards from fires and explosions from a wide variety of combustible powders and dust.
"I am disappointed that OSHA has not moved forward on this recommendation. Completing a comprehensive OSHA dust standard is the major piece of unfinished business from the Imperial Sugar tragedy."
Moure-Eraso also noted that CSB had reissued its call for a combustible dust standard in investigating the deadly flash fires at Hoeganaes Corp.' iron powder plant in Galatin, TN, last year. "Indeed, OSHA lowered the CSB recommendation’s priority on its regulatory agenda in recent weeks," he said.
"I continue to advocate for a comprehensive combustible dust standard, and encourage industry’s support," Moure-Eraso added.."Preventing dust explosions is a necessary investment: prevention saves lives and massive property losses. It is my view that a comprehensive standard will save lives and prevent future combustible dust fatalities."
Moure-Eraso noted that he was pleased to report progress at the rebuilt Imperial Sugar Refinery. "It is gratifying to be able to report that during 2011 the CSB designated Imperial Sugar’s responses to all five of our safety recommendations to the company as 'Closed-Acceptable Action.' Specifically, the CSB recommended that Imperial Sugar develop a corporate-wide comprehensive program to control combustible dust accumulation, develop training materials that address combustible dust hazards and train all employees and contractors, and improve its evacuation procedures. We recommended Imperial Sugar comply with National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) recommended practices for preventing dust fires and explosions, and urged the company to conduct a comprehensive review of all of its manufacturing facilities’ adherence to NFPA standards. "
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