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Hazardous times

A timeline of significant combustible dust-related incidents, and the pursuit to regulate the hazard

February 1, 2012

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A flash of light appeared, the building shook and fiery dust rained down from above. This was not a Hollywood production, but the third combustible-dust related event at the Hoeganaes Corp. facility in Gallatin, TN, in less than four months in 2011, and the latest of numerous incidents that occurred throughout the country in recent years. Because of these often-fatal incidents, some stakeholders have called on employers to reduce combustible dust dangers and on OSHA to issue a regulation addressing the hazard.

“It’s long past time to have a comprehensive dust standard on the books,” said Daniel Horowitz, Chemical Safety Board director of congressional, public and board affairs, in an interview with Safety+Health. “These accidents are 100 percent preventable.” An OSHA spokesperson told S+H in December that a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review of a proposed rule would occur in the near future. The spokesperson said that “complexities associated with addressing combustible dust” have delayed the review, which was scheduled to begin this past December, and a new target date will be announced in the fall Semiannual Regulatory Agenda. (As of Jan. 16, the agenda had not been released.)

The following timeline outlines recent significant combustible dust incidents and actions taken. Use the horizontal scrollbar to slide the timeline.

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