Safety Agency Pushes for Combustible Dust Standard

Significant accumulations of combustible iron ore powder fueled the flash fires that led to the fatalities at powdered metals plant last year.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is recommending the Occupational Safety and Health Administration develop safety measures to help prevent accidents such as the ones that killed five workers at a powdered metals plant last year. Three separate accidents, one in January and two in May, at a Gallatin, Tenn., production facility owned by Hoeganaes Corp. also injured several others.

The CSB, in its final investigation report released this month, said significant accumulations of combustible iron ore powder fueled the flash fires that led to the fatalities.

Among its recommendations, the CSB has urged OSHA to publish a proposed combustible dust standard for general industry within one year, and include coverage for combustible iron and steel powders in the standard.

The CSB first recommended a general-industry combustible-dust standard in 2006. In 2007 OSHA initiated a National Emphasis Program to target industries with combustible dust hazards and two years later announced plans to begin rule-making on a standard for general industry.

In its report, the CSB cited OSHA analysis showing a significant reduction in fatalities following the enactment of grain dust regulations for grain-handling facilities.

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