From our friend John Astad at Combustible Dust Policy Institute.
Legislators, More Regulation is the ComDust Cure
Why is it that legislators seem to think that passing more bills and regulations is the cure all? Problem with the combustible dust issue is that no one in Washington D.C. has all the facts and solely utilizing the Chemical Safety Board's Dust Hazard Study provides a false perception of the enormity and complexity of the issues both social and economical.
"Their bill would tell OSHA to issue - within 90 days - an interim standard. It would require better housekeeping, engineering controls, worker training and a written combustible-dust safety program."For example, the CSB report states there were 281 ComDust incidents from 1980-2005, or an average of eleven incidents annually. In stark contrast, according to media accounts of ComDust related incidents since 2008 there have on an average 12 incidents a month. This would equate to approximately 4,000 ComDust incidents during the 1980-2005 timeframe.
Not understanding the depth of the issue is only part of the problem. For example FEMA/U.S. Fire Administration's, "National Fire Incident Reporting System 5.0 (NFIRS)" via local fire departments has failed to report and identify process situations, process conditions, and process materials regarding combustible dust related fires, precursors to catastrophic dust explosions.
If the local fire and explosions hazards can't be identified, then how can they be evaluated and controlled? Of course legislators at the national level seem to think legislation and regulation is the answer for a local/regional problem. That is the easy way out in attempting to solve a primarily fire life safety issue and secondarily an occupational safety issue.
The OSH ACT specifically states that to address workplace safety, issues of regulation, education, outreach, and research must be pursued. OSHA with its limited resources cannot do it all.
"by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes."What happened to NIOSH as the OSH ACT intended in getting involved with outreach/education regarding the combustible dust issue as it had done decades ago concerning coal mine dust explosions, prior to when the U.S Bureau of Mines (USBM) was transferred to NIOSH, Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Land Management in 1995-97.
Let’s all grow up and stop singling out Imperial Sugar explosion as the problem. Currently Imperial Sugar is an industry leader in addressing ComDust fire and explosion hazards. What about the tens of thousands manufacturing facilities that have potential ComDust fire and explosion hazards? So now OSHA as Secretary of Labor states, "there's a new sheriff in town." So what we going to do, fine them all?
Outreach, training, research, and education through NIOSH and US Fire Administration are just a few examples in alternatives to more legislation and regulation. Question is, who has the vision in providing the leadership so all local, state, and federal agencies are working together in these tough economic times.
Resources -OSH Act