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OSHA updates emphasis program on combustible dust

Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington — OSHA has revised its National Emphasis Program on combustible dust.

The updated NEP, which went into effect Jan. 30, reflects combustible dust incident reports and enforcement history. According to OSHA, wood and food products accounted for 70% of materials in combustible dust explosions and fires in 2018.

“Incident reports indicate that the majority of the industries involved in combustible dust hazards are wood processing, agricultural and food production, and lumber production, but others are susceptible as well,” the agency says in a Jan. 27 press release.

OSHA has added the following industries to the NEP, by the North American Industry Classification System:

  • 311812 – Commercial bakeries
  • 325910 – Printing ink manufacturing
  • 321912 – Cut stock, resawing lumber and planing
  • 316110 – Leather and hide tanning and finishing
  • 321214 – Truss manufacturing 
  • 424510 – Grain and field bean merchant wholesalers 

The NEP, which replaces a March 2008 directive, will remain in effect until a cancellation notice is issued. OSHA notes that the revised directive doesn’t replace a similar one for grain handling facilities, “but it may cover operations involving grain processing that are outside the scope of the grain handling directive.”

OSHA initially launched its NEP on combustible dust in October 2007 after a number of incidents that resulted in fatalities and serious injuries. The agency reissued the emphasis program in 2008 after an explosion at the Imperial Sugar Co.’s refinery in Port Wentworth, GA. Fourteen people were killed and 36 others were injured as a result of the incident.

“The combustible dust NEP is one of the agency’s important programs for proactively inspecting the nation’s most hazardous facilities before a catastrophic incident occurs,” OSHA administrator Doug Parker said in the release. “The results of a combustible dust fire or explosion can be catastrophic to workers and the facilities that they work.”

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