12 March 2008 16:52 [Source: ICIS news]
William Wright, interim head of the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), told the House Education and Labor Committee that prompt regulatory action by Congress is necessary to “protect US jobs, businesses and communities that will otherwise be harmed or lost from deadly dust explosions”.
He urged speedy congressional action on HR-5522, the “Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act of 2008,” which would require the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to issue within 90 days a temporary rule providing standards for explosive dust safety.
The temporary rule and a more comprehensive OSHA regulation that the bill would require within 18 months would cover dust hazards in “manufacturing, processing, blending, conveying, repackaging and handling of combustible particulate solids and their dusts” from plastics, rubber, pesticides, fibres, dyes, pharmaceuticals and textiles, among others.
The temporary rules would have to set mandatory workplace safety precautions against dust explosions that meet or exceed the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) voluntary standards for combating dust explosions in manufacturing.
The Chemical Safety Board urged OSHA in late 2006 to issue an explosive dust rule, following the board's finding that 119 workers had been killed and 718 injured in nearly 300 explosive dust accidents between 1980 and 2005. Members of Congress have criticized the administration for not acting promptly on the board’s recommendations.
Wright also recommended to the committee that material safety data sheets (MSDS), documents that chemical manufacturers must provide to buyers detailing product hazards, should be updated to alert chemical and plastics users to the dangers posed by dust that may be inherent in or generated by use or processing of a substance.
Wright said that in the safety board’s 2006 study, it found that only half of some 140 MSDS documents examined contained any warning that the material could pose an explosive dust hazard, and only a handful of the safety data sheets referenced the relevant voluntary standards published by the National Fire Protection Association.
Those shortcomings, he said, argue for a congressional mandate for a new national standard to help prevent dust explosions.
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