Combustible Dust Hazards

March 03, 2008

Any combustible material (and some materials normally considered noncombustible) can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form. If a dust is suspended in air in the right concentration, it can become explosive. The force from such an explosion can cause deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings. A U.S. Chemical Safety Board study of dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 identified 281 incidents that killed 119 employees and injured 718, including 7 recent incidents that caused extensive facility damage and significantly impacted communities economically.

Materials that may form combustible dust include metals (such as aluminum and magnesium), wood, coal, plastics, biosolids, sugar, paper, soap, dried blood, and certain textiles. In many accidents, employers and employees were unaware that a hazard even existed.

A combustible dust explosion hazard may exist in a variety of industries, including: food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc), and fossil fuel power generation.


Comments Sought on PPE for Health Care Workers Action Plan

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests input and comment on the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Healthcare Workers (HCW) Action Plan, NIOSH Docket Number NIOSH-129. This action plan was prepared in response to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) contained in a report entitled “Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic: PPE for Healthcare Workers, 2008.”

In 2006, the IOM Committee on Personal Protective Equipment (COPPE) determined that there is an urgent need to address the lack of preparedness regarding effective PPE for use in an influenza pandemic. Subsequently, the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) commissioned the IOM to examine issues regarding PPE for healthcare workers in the event of pandemic influenza. The IOM committee was charged with examining research directions, certifying and establishing standards, and identifying risk assessment issues specific to PPE for healthcare workers during an influenza pandemic.

The IOM provided three overarching conclusions (Understand Influenza Transmission; Commit to Worker Safety and Appropriate Use of PPE; Innovate and Strengthen PPE Design, Testing, and Certification) and a series of recommendations for maximizing the opportunity to incorporate PPE into influenza pandemic research. The committee also provided recommendations regarding future research opportunities.

The current action plan is the first phase of an ongoing effort to effectively respond to the report and solicit stakeholder input for a more refined approach. The plan is structured to align with the IOM recommendations. Each recommendation identifies current activities in progress within the NIOSH Personal Protective Technology (PPT) Program and subsequent activities that should be considered for both near-term and long-term implementation. Associated references and weblinks are provided for ongoing activities where available. Each text description is accompanied by a flow chart that provides a pictorial representation of the information described in the associated text. Associated Gantt Charts identifying anticipated timelines for conducting the activities in response to each recommendation follow the flow charts. The PPT Program ongoing and potential future activities are highlighted in yellow. Note that Recommendation No. 1 in the IOM Report reaches beyond the PPT Program. NIOSH is currently developing additional plans to provide a comprehensive response to that recommendation.

The PPT Program Action Plan activities identified for near-term implementation will be considered within the current budget constraints of the PPT Program during the fiscal year 2009 strategic planning process.

The timeline to finalize the action plan is described as follows:

  • Detailed draft action plan posted to NPPTL website (Feb. 25, 2008)
  • Open docket to solicit comments for 30 days (Feb. 25 to April 1, 2008)
  • Revise action plan based on comments received (May 2008)

The final action plan will be used to prioritize and select future NPPTL research projects including funding, staffing, and upgrading laboratory capabilities.

Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m., Eastern time, on April 1, 2008.

Illinois Workplace Safety and Health Day Aims to Protect Employees

Making and keeping the workplace safe and healthful will be the focus of the 17th annual Downstate Illinois Occupational Safety and Health (DIOSH) Day slated for March 19 at the Peoria Civic Center. Workplace safety and health issues will be discussed and information made available to employers, employees, and the general public.

The conference is being jointly sponsored by OSHA’s Peoria Area Office; the American Society of Safety Engineers Central Illinois Chapter; the American Industrial Hygiene Association, Prairie Section; the Greater Peoria Contractors and Suppliers Association Inc.; the Illinois Department of Labor; the Employers’ Association; and the Tri-County Construction Labor-Management Council.

Numerous breakout sessions will include: How to Avoid OSHA’s Top 10 Citations; Trenching and Excavation Safety; Robotic and Machine Guarding Safety; Cranes, Lifts, and Scaffolds Safety; and Mock OSHA Inspections. A mini health fair will feature blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose level testing, as well as other valuable health-screening services.

The daylong event will open for registration at 7 a.m., Central time, and continue with workshops and breakout sessions until 4 p.m. Exhibit area hours will be from 7 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

Registration and additional information may be obtained by calling 877-DIOSH-DAY (346-7432).

OSHA Proposes $155,000 in Penalties Against Florida Construction Contractor

OSHA has proposed $155,000 in penalties against John Carlo Inc. for two alleged willful and three alleged serious violations uncovered during an inspection of a company construction site in Naples, Fla.

OSHA issued two willful violations against the company with $140,000 in proposed penalties for failing to provide cave-in protection to employees working inside an excavation that contained unstable soil and allowing excess soil to be placed too close to the edge of the trench wall. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Three serious violations with proposed penalties totaling $15,000 were issued to address deficiencies in the employer’s training program, employee exposure to hazards from ductile iron pipe being lifted overhead, and employees using a ladder that was too short and on an unstable surface. (A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.)

“Having employees work unprotected in a deep trench with unstable soil is a recipe for disaster,” said Darlene Fossum, OSHA’s area director in Fort Lauderdale. “Being behind schedule is no excuse for gambling with employees’ safety.”

OSHA operates a vigorous enforcement program, conducting more than 39,000 inspections in fiscal year 2007 and exceeding its inspection goals in each of the last eight years. In fiscal year 2007, OSHA found nearly 89,000 violations of its standards and regulations.

OSHA Cites Chicago Metal Forger for Safety Violations Found During Follow-up Inspection

OSHA has proposed $140,000 in fines against Chicago metal forger A. Finkl & Sons for two alleged willful violations of federal workplace safety standards found during a recent follow-up to a 2006 inspection.

OSHA opened its most current inspection in August 2007 to determine if the company had corrected safety hazards found in 2006 and to determine if other hazards existed. The follow-up inspection found that the company still has not provided adequate guardrails over tanks and pits and has failed to keep industrial trucks in clean and safe operating condition. The two willful citations issued as a result of these hazards carry a total of $140,000 in penalties.

“It’s disappointing when we find on re-inspection that problems which may lead to death or serious injury still exist,” said Diane Turek, OSHA’s area director in Des Plaines, Ill. “There is no excuse for this kind of attitude toward the safety of employees.”

OSHA has inspected the Finkl forging plant 19 times since 1972 with 12 of those inspections resulting in citations for safety violations. The company has had two fatalities during that time. Additionally, an employee was injured in 2003 after jumping from the cab of a powered industrial truck that caught fire due to accumulations of hydraulic oil that ignited while he was transporting a heated metal ingot.

A. Finkl & Sons has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Cites DEC Management for Jobsite Fall Hazards

A Georgia-based contractor, cited in November 2007 by OSHA following a fatal Oct. 3, 2007, fall at a Niagara Falls, N.Y., hotel construction site, now faces $86,000 in additional fines for failing to correct hazards cited during an earlier OSHA inspection as well as for a new fall hazard.

OSHA first cited and fined DEC Management $2,100 in August 2007 for failing to implement a fall protection program and provide fall protection training to employees working on the project. A follow-up inspection to verify correction of those hazards found that they had not been corrected. As a result, OSHA now has issued the company two failure to abate notices carrying $84,000 in proposed fines.

The follow-up inspection also identified a new fall hazard: employees exposed to 16-foot falls from a second floor deck. This finding resulted in the issuance of one serious citation with a $2,000 proposed fine. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

“One life already has been lost in a fall at this jobsite,” said Arthur Dube, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo. “This employer’s ongoing failure to supply and ensure basic safeguards leaves these employees continually exposed to the number one killer in construction work.”

On Nov. 8, 2007, OSHA cited and fined DEC Management $40,000 for a variety of fall hazards in connection with the October 3 accident in which one employee was killed and another was injured when the pre-cast concrete panel on which they were standing shifted and fell 25 feet to the ground. An inspection to verify correction of the hazards cited during that inspection was opened on Jan. 16, 2008, and is ongoing.

Timeline of Inspections and Resulting Citations and Penalties Included:

  • Aug. 23, 2007—OSHA opens a planned inspection of DEC Management.
  • Aug. 29, 2007—OSHA issues two serious citations for failing to implement a fall protection program and provide fall protection training to employees. The agency fines DEC Management $2,100.
  • Oct. 3, 2007—OSHA opens an inspection in response to a fatal fall at the jobsite.
  • Nov. 8, 2007—OSHA issues DEC Management six serious citations for a variety of fall hazards in connection with the fatality. The agency fines the company $40,000.
  • Nov. 21, 2007—OSHA opens a follow-up inspection to verify correction of hazards cited during the August inspection.
  • Jan. 16, 2008—OSHA opens a second follow-up inspection to verify correction of hazards cited during the fatality inspection. This inspection is ongoing.
  • Feb. 19, 2008—OSHA proposes $84,000 in additional fines for DEC Management’s failure to abate (correct) the hazards cited in the August inspection. The agency issues a $2,000 fine for a new fall hazard identified during this follow-up inspection.

OSHA Proposes $60,000 in Penalties Against Citation Corp.

OSHA has proposed $60,000 in penalties against Citation Corp. for safety and health violations at its Brewton, Ala., manufacturing facility. The manufacturing plant uses silica in its production of ductile iron castings.

“This employer is failing its employees by not protecting them from overexposure to silica, which can cause silicosis, an irreversible respiratory disease,” said Ken Atha, OSHA’s area director in Mobile, Ala.

OSHA inspectors cited Citation Corp. for two repeat violations carrying $50,000 in proposed penalties after finding that employees were exposed to excessive levels of silica and that the company failed to provide the engineering controls needed to reduce employees’ exposure level. The company also did not conduct annual tests to ensure that employee respirators were properly fitted. OSHA cited the Brewton location for similar violations in 2006.

The plant also was cited for three serious safety violations with proposed penalties of $10,000 for exposing employees to electrical and fall hazards by not maintaining floors in a dry condition, not ensuring that unused electrical openings were effectively closed, and not providing strain relief on electrical cords.

OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer previously has been cited for a substantially similar hazard and those citations have become final. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Oregon OSHA Fines Siemens Power Generation for Fatal Incident in Wind Turbine Collapse

Oregon OSHA has fined Siemens Power Generation Inc. a total of $10,500 for safety violations related to an Aug. 25, 2007, wind turbine tower collapse that killed one worker and injured another.

“The investigation found no structural problems with the tower,” said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator. “This tragedy was the result of a system that allowed the operator to restart the turbine after service, while the blades were locked in a hazardous position. Siemens has made changes to the tower’s engineering controls to ensure it does not happen again.”

The event took place at the Klondike III Wind Farm near Wasco, Ore., where three wind technicians were performing maintenance on a wind turbine tower. After applying a service brake to stop the blades from moving, one of the workers entered the hub of the turbine. He then positioned all three blades to the maximum wind resistance position and closed all three energy isolation devices on the blades. The devices are designed to control the mechanism that directs the blade pitch so that workers don’t get injured while they are working in the hub.

Before leaving the confined space, the worker did not return the energy isolation devices to the operational position. As a result, when he released the service brake, wind energy on the out-of-position blades caused an “overspeed” condition, causing one of the blades to strike the tower and the tower to collapse, the Oregon OSHA investigation found.

Chadd Mitchell, who was working at the top of the tower, died in the collapse. William Trossen, who was on his way down a ladder in the tower when it collapsed, was injured. The third worker was outside the tower and unharmed.


  • Workers were not properly instructed and supervised in the safe operation of machinery, tools, equipment, processes, or practices they were authorized to use or apply. The technicians working on the turbine each had less than two months’ experience, and there was no supervisor on site. The workers were unaware of the potential for catastrophic failure of the turbine that could occur as a result of not restoring energy isolation devices to the operational position.
  • The company’s procedures for controlling potentially hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities did not fully comply with Oregon OSHA regulations. Oregon OSHA requirements include developing, documenting, and using detailed procedures and applying lockout or tagout devices to secure hazardous energy in a “safe” or “off” position during service or maintenance. Several energy isolation devices in the towers, such as valves and lock pins, were not designed to hold a lockout device, and energy control procedures in place at the time of the accident did not include the application and removal of tagout devices.
  • Employees who were required to enter the hub (a permit-required confined space) or act as attendants to employees entering the hub had not been trained in emergency rescue procedures from the hub.

Congressmen Investigate Cover-Up of Great Lakes Report

Reps. John D. Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak (D-MI), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, announced an investigation into the withholding of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that reportedly demonstrates a correlation between pollution in the Great Lakes and health issues such as cancer mortality and higher infant mortality rates.

“Pollution in our Great Lakes can have very real health consequences for the millions of Americans who live in and around the Great Lakes basin,” Dingell said. “If the Administration has willfully withheld a report from the public, it raises questions about whether they are putting the public health at risk and about the scientific integrity of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The study, “Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in the Twenty-Six U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern,” was completed in July 2007, following several years of work and extensive scientific peer review. According to a recent article by the Center for Public Integrity, officials at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registration, a division of the CDC, blocked the study’s publication.

In a letter sent to the CDC, Dingell and Stupak asked that the Great Lakes Report be published so that the validity of its findings can be fairly evaluated. The letter also requests information on events surrounding the suppression of the study. According to the article by the Center for Public Integrity, the Great Lakes Report’s chief author, Dr. Christopher De Rosa, was demoted after working to see the Great Lakes Report released to the public.

OSHA Announces a New Alliance With the Scaffold Industry Association


“The collective expertise of OSHA and SIA can create a significant impact on the safety and health of men and women working in construction,” stated Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “Through our alliance, we intend to develop products, programs, and resources for employers and employees to help reduce fatalities and increase awareness of preventable injuries.”

The alliance will also address reducing and avoiding exposure to fall and caught in/between hazards. The two organizations will work cooperatively to develop training and education programs for the construction industry. Through the alliance, representatives will participate in OSHA and SIA conferences, meetings, and events, such as SIA’s 36th Annual Convention & Exposition. In addition, the alliance will disseminate information through OSHA’s and SIA’s websites, as well as print and electronic assistance and media tools.

“The Scaffold Industry Association is both excited and energized to work with OSHA again on issues directly related to scaffold and access safety,” said SIA President John R. Miller. “The collective expertise of both OSHA and the SIA will significantly accelerate the delivery of training, education, and information specific to scaffold and access safety, while renewing both parties commitment to reduce accidents, eliminate fatalities, and create a culture of safe work practices.”

SIA is a national trade organization, founded in 1972, to represent the scaffold, aerial lift, and access industry in the United States and worldwide. SIA promotes safety in these areas by developing educational and training courses, audiovisual programs, and codes of safe practices. It has more than 1,000 member companies, including aerial platform dealers and distributors; scaffold and shoring erectors and renters; plank and platform manufacturers and distributors; safety and engineering consultants; and government officials.

OSHA Forms New Alliance With Safety and Health Professional Certification Organizations

The groups will work collectively to help enhance the education and expertise of safety professionals and industrial hygienists, as well as promote the value of safety and health-accredited certifications.

“Assuring the safety and health of working men and women are the foundations of our respective organizations,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “OSHA is pleased to join with BCSP, CCHEST, and ABIH as we collaborate to develop products, programs, and resources that will advance safety and industrial hygiene competency in the workplace.”

In addition, the alliance will produce materials and programs that promote the benefits of achieving safety and health certifications. Alliance representatives will collaborate to distribute information to employers and employees through print and electronic media, conferences, meetings, and other events.

BCSP is a nationally and internationally accredited peer certification board that awards the Certified Safety Professional® certification. Formerly known as the ABIH/BCSP Joint Committee, CCHEST certifies individuals as occupational health and safety technologists, construction health and safety technicians, and safety trained supervisors. ABIH provides certification for the industrial hygiene profession and promotes high standards for those serving public health interests. “Promoting advanced knowledge in health and safety through this alliance will improve the conditions in workplaces across the United States and help to ensure that workers’ health is protected,” said Lynn O’Donnell, ABIH executive director.

Massachusetts Power Plant Earns Another Five Years as Safety and Heath “Star”

Zero injuries and illnesses over the past three years and a strong commitment to safety and health by employees and management have earned BG Dighton Power LLC an additional five years of participation in OSHA’s prestigious Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).

The electric power generation plant was first certified as a “star” site, the VPP’s highest level of accomplishment, in July 2005, when it operated as Calpine Dighton Power. The renewal came after an OSHA team’s on-site review found the plant’s safety and health programs consistent with the high quality expected of VPP participants.

“The VPP star is awarded only to those workplaces where employees and management work together, continually and effectively, to analyze, identify, and eliminate potential hazards,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England. “The success of the Dighton staff’s efforts is clearly reflected in their exemplary safety and health record of no injuries or illnesses during more than 93,000 hours of work logged since 2005.”

BG Dighton Power is one of more than 1,920 worksites in 270 industries nationwide, including 32 in Massachusetts, that have earned entry into the VPP. The VPP recognizes sites that are committed to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards and encourages cooperative relationships among labor, management, unions, and government.

Through the VPP, employers and employees have experienced significant decreases in fatalities, injuries and illnesses; associated cost reductions including lowered workers’ compensation expenses; positive changes in company culture and attitudes toward safety and health; and average injury rates that are 50% lower than other companies in their respective industries.

The VPP is open to deserving employers in any industry.

International Paper Manufacturing Facility Achieves Another OSHA VPP “Star” Award

International Paper Corporation’s Auburn Container Facility in Auburn, Maine, has been recertified for an additional five-year membership at the “star,” or highest, level of OSHA’s VPP.

The Auburn facility, which has 141 employees who manufacture corrugated cardboard boxes, first achieved star status in May 2003. The renewal came after an OSHA team’s on-site review, including interviews with employees and a complete tour of the worksite, found the facility’s safety and health programs consistent with the high quality expected of VPP participants.

“Working together, employees and management at the Auburn plant have maintained their effective and ongoing commitment to workplace safety and health,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England. “Their joint efforts have resulted in a high-quality safety and health program, and injury and illness rates well below the industry average.”

The Auburn plant is one of more than 1,920 worksites in 270 industries nationwide, including 15 sites in Maine, which have earned entry into the VPP.

Illinois Deploying 22 Mass Decontamination Vehicles to Increase Disaster Preparedness

Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich has announced that the state is deploying 22 mass decontamination vehicles to communities throughout the state to ensure rapid response to hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction incidents. The specially outfitted decontamination trucks will allow local fire departments to provide quick mass decontamination of victims at the scene of a hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction incident.

“These mass decontamination vehicles are part of our ongoing effort to make sure Illinois is well-prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any disaster, anywhere in the state,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Mutual aid between the fire services, law enforcement, emergency management, and public health is critical to responding to disasters. These vehicles further strengthen our mutual aid plan, which is already recognized as the best in the nation.”

The Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF), which develops and implements the state’s homeland security strategy, worked with the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) on the decontamination vehicle initiative. MABAS, the fire services mutual aid organization, facilitated the purchase, equipping, and deployment of the 16 vehicles that have already been received and will handle delivery of the remaining 6 vehicles this year.

MABAS also determined the criteria for placement of the vehicles, including requiring that the recipient have an established hazardous materials response team to manage the equipment and that no decontamination already is located in the area. Proximity to high population centers and universities were also considered when determining where to place the vehicles.

Each vehicle contains an incident coordination area and decontamination capabilities both inside and outside the vehicle. The inside decontamination area includes six showerheads, while there are four shower stations outside of the vehicle in a semi-enclosed awning area. For non-ambulatory patients, decontamination can be performed inside or outside the vehicle with an automated patient lift system and over/under roller systems for individuals on stretchers.

The vehicles are equipped with automated water-pressure controls, electronically controlled water temperature, scene lighting, exterior modesty barriers, an onboard generator, decontamination solution dispensing system, and a 100-gallon water storage tank. Water for the decontamination is supplied by fire engines or hydrants. Each vehicle is equipped with enough supplies to decontaminate 200 individuals.

Each decontamination vehicle costs approximately $251,000, including equipment and supplies. The state will spend more than $5.5 million for the 22 vehicles it is purchasing. Funding for the vehicles came from homeland security grants the state receives from the federal government.

In addition, Cook County is purchasing three decontamination vehicles with funding they received through the federal Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant.

“As with other response assets we’ve positioned throughout the state, such as mobile command vehicles and Illinois Transportable Emergency Communications Systems, these mass decontamination vehicles can be dispatched anywhere in the state to support response efforts during a major disaster,” said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).

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