Combustible Dust Investigation

November 27, 2018

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has issued a call to action, requesting that companies, regulators, inspectors, safety training providers, researchers and workers submit answers to 11 fundamental questions pertaining to combustible dust in the workplace. The call to action was issued as part of the CSB’s investigation into a Wisconsin milling facility explosion that claimed the lives of five workers.

The Combustible Dust Call to Action Questions

The CSB is seeking to better understand perceptions about combustible dust in the workplace and factors that influence those perceptions. The CSB notes that 281 combustible dust incidents occurred between 1980 and 2005 across 44 states, in many different industries involving various materials. However, one thing that all the cases had in common was that witnesses reported being surprised that the incident occurred; they often relayed how clean the sites were, how the dust was being maintained at a safe level and how they never thought a combustible dust incident would occur at their facilities.

Consequently, the CSB has requested answers to questions including:

  • Can a workplace can be both dusty and safe?
  • How should individuals or organizations distinguish between safe and hazardous dust levels?
  • Are combustible dust hazards communicated to workers and what systems have been put in place to address them?
  • What are the challenges associated with dust management compliance?
  • How can companies determine which issues take priority when dealing with both sanitation standards and dust explosion prevention?
  • What methods are most effective for combustible dust housekeeping?
  • How do organizations minimize the effect of used, aging equipment on dust accumulation in the workplace?
  • What are some challenges to maintaining dust collection systems?
  • Does the rareness of workplace dust fires that result in explosions create a false sense of security?
  • Do workers feel comfortable reporting issues regarding dust accumulation and what procedures are in place to assist them in doing so?
  • How can information be better shared amongst combustible dust operators, industry standard organizations and regulators to prevent future incidents?

Lack of a General Industry Standard

The CSB points to lack of a general industry standard, noting that it made four recommendations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the issuance of a general industry standard for combustible dust. However, despite claiming that it would develop such a standard in 2009, OSHA removed the action from its regulatory agenda eight years later in 2017.

OSHA notes that its regulations do address combustible dust hazards in general industry subparts (some of which are even industry-specific) and that employers must comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employees to provide workers with safe and healthful workplaces, free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or physical harm.

Workplace Accident Lawyers in Philadelphia at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represent Workers Injured in Accidents Involving Combustible Dust

If you were injured in a workplace combustible dust accident, contact a workplace accident lawyer in Philadelphia for assistance. At Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. our skilled attorneys will fight to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. For a free consultation, complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.

We represent injured workers throughout Pennsylvania, including those in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery County, and Philadelphia County, as well as in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum Lynne, DarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssington, FolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion StationMorton, Narberth, Norristown, NorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect Park, QuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.