OSHA Revises Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program

February 06, 2023
OSHA has announced that it is revising the agency’s national emphasis program (NEP) for combustible dust. The revised NEP adds six industries where combustible dust hazards are likely or where fatalities or catastrophes related to combustible dust have occurred. The NEP will now cover establishments that engage in commercial baking, the manufacturing of printing ink, the production of cut lumber or the resawing or planing of lumber, the tanning and finishing of leather and hides, the manufacturing of trusses, or the wholesale distribution of grains and field beans. These industries now appear in Appendix B of the NEP, which lists all industries—86 in total—that have heightened potential for combustible dust hazards.
The changes also include the removal of six industries that have low numbers of OSHA inspections or where less than half of inspections are related to combustible dust hazards. Establishments for which the NEP will no longer apply include those that operate fossil-fuel-powered electric power generation facilities or that manufacture cookies or crackers, pharmaceutical preparations, certain plastic casings, hardware that supports electrical systems, or window blinds and shades.
Other changes to the NEP include the removal of several appendices that are now part of the chapter on combustible dusts in the OSHA Technical Manual.
The combustible dust NEP was originally launched in 2007 following several combustible dust incidents that resulted in many deaths and serious injuries. In March 2008, one month after an explosion involving combustible dusts at the Imperial Sugar refinery near Savannah, Georgia, caused 14 deaths and 38 injuries, OSHA reissued the NEP to increase its enforcement activities in certain industries.

NCDOL Releases Workplace Fatality Count for 2022
Struck-by incidents and falls from elevation caused the largest number of non COVID-19 work-related deaths last year in the Tar Heel state, based on preliminary information released recently by the N.C. Department of Labor (NCDOL). The department’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division inspected 63 non COVID-19 work-related fatalities that occurred in 2022. The division also inspected three cases reported as deaths related to COVID-19.
“Workplace fatalities weigh heavily on my mind and are the most difficult part of my job as Labor Commissioner,” Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson said. “I am notified about every workplace fatality in North Carolina that falls within our department’s jurisdiction. Our department is constantly working to provide education, training and compliance resources on high hazard industries and promoting the importance of putting safety and health at the forefront of what we do.”
The OSH Division tracks work-related deaths that fall within its jurisdictional authority so it can pinpoint where fatalities are occurring and place special emphasis on counties or regions where deaths on the job are happening. By tracking fatalities in real time, the department can also notify industries of any concerning patterns or trends identified and issue hazard alerts.
“Each of these fatalities represents a person who was not able to go home to their family at the end of the day,” Deputy Commissioner of the Occupational Safety and Health Division Jennifer Haigwood said. “Nearly all workplace fatalities are avoidable, and our mission at the OSH Division is to work with employers and employees to ensure that these tragedies are prevented in the future. The OSH Division offers a host of educational and training resources for businesses and workers in all industries. I strongly encourage employers and employees to contact the Division to learn more about these resources, all of which are free of charge. Our goal is to help North Carolina’s workforce continue to thrive, and a safe and healthful work environment is a critical component toward achieving that goal.” 
The OSH Division partners with businesses and organizations that represent some of the most hazardous industries through partnerships and alliances to heighten industry awareness and assist with education and training.
The construction industry suffered the most work-related fatalities with 21 in 2022, six more than in 2021. Most of the construction industry deaths were due to falls from elevation. The services industry had the second highest number of work-related deaths with 11, a decrease of 15 from the previous year. Manufacturing had the third highest number of work-related deaths with 10.
In addition, agriculture, forestry and fishing had nine fatalities in 2022, four more than in 2021. There were seven fatalities in government, a decrease from ten in 2021. Retail trade experienced four fatalities in 2022. There were also two work-related fatalities in wholesale trade, a decrease from three in 2021. Finance, insurance and real estate experienced one workplace fatality. The transportation and public utilities industry also experienced one workplace fatality.
There were no work-related fatalities in 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Durham county led with six workplace fatalities, followed by Wake and Johnston with five workplace fatalities each. Guilford and Mecklenburg experienced three workplace fatalities each. There were 9 counties that experienced two workplace fatalities each. Twenty-six counties experienced one workplace fatality each. 
Whites accounted for 34 of the 63 non COVID-19 work-related fatalities. Hispanics accounted for 20, Blacks for eight and Native Americans for one. Men accounted for 54 deaths and women accounted for nine non COVID-19 workplace deaths.
The state figures exclude certain fatalities that fall outside its jurisdictional authority. These include traffic accidents, which account for nearly half of all work-related deaths, as well as some homicides and suicides that are investigated by law enforcement agencies. The count also excludes fatalities investigated by federal OSHA and other exemptions in which the department does not have the authority to investigate, such as on farms with 10 or fewer employees. 
Federal figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with cooperation of NCDOL, include all work-related fatalities. The federal figures for 2021, the latest figures available, can be found on the BLS website. Data for 2022 will be available in December. 
Click here to access the PDF document containing workplace fatalities for 2022.
DTSC Orders Fresno Metal Recycler to Investigate Potential Hazardous Waste Releases
After a joint inspection by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Fresno County Department of Public Health uncovered evidence that hazardous waste was released from Fresno’s Skee’s Recycling, DTSC is ordering the owners of the longtime metal recycling business to investigate the full extent of the releases and to clean them up.
DTSC is concerned that toxic chemicals may have migrated off the property into the surrounding neighborhood through the air, water, or on vehicles coming and going from the property.
Skee’s Recycling is in a mixed-use industrial neighborhood with homes within 300 feet of the property. The surrounding neighborhood includes seven schools and four public parks. The area also carries some of the state’s highest pollution burden, according to CalEnviroScreen, an online tool used to help identify communities disproportionately affected by multiple sources of pollution. 
“DTSC is paying special attention to metal recycling operations because of the risk they pose to communities, especially those in areas that are already environmentally burdened,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “We’re protecting people, communities and the environment from companies and industries that pollute.”
The joint inspection found five locations on the 2.12-acre property at 4628 E. Thomas Ave. with elevated levels of cadmium, lead and copper. Skee’s Recycling processes a variety of metal, including junk cars, broken auto parts, engines, insulated wire, electric motors, electronic waste, and automotive batteries.
DTSC’s order requires the owners of the facility to follow deadlines in submitting their investigation reports to DTSC, including a plan for cleaning up contamination. DTSC will notify the community of the submitted reports so residents can weigh in on the proposed cleanup plan.
California Unveils Bold Plan to Sustainably Manage Pests and Eliminate High-Risk Pesticides
California recently joined leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds to unveil a roadmap of ambitious goals and actions to accelerate California’s systemwide transition to sustainable pest management and eliminate prioritized high-risk pesticides by 2050 to better protect the health of our communities and environment, while supporting agriculture, food systems and community well-being.
The Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap for California – released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture – charts a course for the state’s transition to sustainable pest management in agricultural and urban settings.
The roadmap was developed over nearly two years by a diverse, cross-sector group of stakeholders representing conventional and organic agriculture, urban environments, community and environmental groups, tribes, researchers, and government.
“For decades, California has used pesticides to protect our crops, our cities, our homes, and our businesses from pests,” said Yana Garcia, California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection. “Exposure to harmful pesticides carries risks – to our health and to our environment – and these risks are disproportionately borne by communities already overburdened by pollution. If we truly want to build a healthy and safe California for all, we must phase out and replace the highest-risk pesticides, and the Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap is a bold, new plan to get us there.”
Sustainable pest management is a holistic, systemwide approach that builds on the practice of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) by incorporating essential elements of human health and social equity, environmental protection, and economic vitality. IPM uses the least toxic, effective method to solve pest problems. While IPM has been practiced to varying degrees for decades, it hasn’t been adopted at scale, across the board, in agriculture or in urban or wildland settings, which is why the holistic, systemwide approach recommended through the Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap is a necessary evolution.
“The Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap recognizes how the management of pest pressures is strongly interconnected with resilient farms and ecosystems, and the health of farmworkers and communities.” said CDFA Secretary, Karen Ross. “We have a lot of work ahead to implement the approaches outlined in the roadmap. However, the implementation of these recommendations will ensure an abundant and healthful food supply, protect our natural resources, and create healthy, resilient communities.”
The Sustainable Pest Management Work Group was formed in response to both a recommendation from the state’s Chlorpyrifos Alternatives Work Group, and the Governor’s, CalEPA’s and DPR’s recognition of the need to accelerate a holistic, systemwide approach to safer, more sustainable pest management. The Work Group was comprised of 25 members representing diverse interests to address sustainable pest management in agricultural settings, and an additional eight members formed an urban subgroup to address urban pest pressures specifically.
“Successfully transitioning to sustainable pest management requires collective action,” said DPR Director Julie Henderson. “The critical actions outlined in the roadmap include prioritizing prevention, coordinating state-level leadership, investing in building knowledge about sustainable pest management, improving the state’s registration and evaluation process to bring more sustainable alternatives to market and enhancing monitoring and statewide data collection to better inform actions.”
DPR opened a public comment period on the prioritization and implementation of next steps outlined in the Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap. The comment period is open will close at 5 p.m. on March 13, 2023. Comments can be sent to alternatives@cdpr.ca.gov or by mail to 1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, CA 95812. Comments received will be considered as part of the state-level coordination on implementing the recommendations in the Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap.
DPR and partner agencies will additionally host a series of webinars to discuss the recommendations and actions outlined in the Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap for both agricultural and urban landscapes. The webinars are planned for February 2023 and more information will be available on DPR’s website.
Northern Metals Pays $12,000 for Violating Air Quality Regulations
According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation, during 2021, Northern Metals exceeded air emissions limits for small and very small particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) by up to 60 percent above permitted limits at its metal shredding facility in Becker, Minn. The company also missed deadlines for testing pollution emissions and submitting those results to the MPCA.
As part of its air quality permit, Northern Metals is required to perform emissions tests on a regular schedule for pollutants such as particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polychlorinated (PCBs), mercury, and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). Records indicate that at one point in 2021, tests were conducted up to 35 days late and reports were submitted to the MPCA up to 66 days late.
In addition to paying the $12,000 civil penalty, Northern Metals will complete a series of corrective actions including:
  • Submitting a performance testing plan that outlines a schedule to ensure that future testing is performed on time
  • Installing equipment to control acid gas, mercury, and particulate matter emissions and perform tests to show proper operation
  • Submitting status reports to the MPCA every six months
Connecticut Contractor's Failure to Address Hazards Turns Deadly
A federal investigation has found a Manchester contractor's failure to provide legally required safeguards and make sure they were in place to prevent trench collapses contributed to the July 22, 2022, death of an employee buried when an 8-foot-deep trench caved in.
Investigators with OSHA determined Botticello, Inc. exposed their worker to deadly hazards as he connected drainage piping at a residential development construction site in Vernon. Previously, in November 2015, OSHA inspectors identified four serious violations related to trenching work by Botticello Inc. at a Stafford worksite.
"This deadly cave-in and the worker's death should never have happened," said OSHA Area Director Dale Varney in Hartford, Connecticut. "After a previous OSHA inspection, Botticello Inc. knew of the dangers of working in an unprotected trench and the need to inspect the trench and ensure required effective cave-in protection was in place before any employee entered the trench. The company, however, still chose to ignore these required safeguards and now a worker's family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve."
Specifically, OSHA found that Botticello Inc. failed to:
  • Provide the trench with a protective system to prevent it from collapsing and caving in on workers
  • Have a competent person conduct inspections before and during the work to identify and correct any hazardous conditions before employees entered the trench
  • Ensure the 135-foot-long trench contained sufficient means of egress to allow employees to safely exit
As a result of the violations and the employer's prior knowledge, OSHA cited Botticello, Inc. for three willful violations and proposed $375,021 in penalties.
Federal trenching safety standards require protective systems for trenches deeper than 5 feet, and that soil and other materials be kept at least 2 feet from the trench's edge. Trenches must also be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entry and exit before a worker may enter.
Three Employers’ Safety Failures Contributed to Worker’s Fatal Fall
Three construction contractors might have prevented the death of a 31-year-old laborer who suffered fatal injuries after falling while installing roof trusses at a Tallahassee work site on Aug. 17, 2022, a federal workplace safety investigation has found.
OSHA determined the employee of Big Hammer, LLC was installing roof trusses and attempting to upright the truss after a crane released it, causing the worker to fall 12 feet to the ground. The laborer suffered critical injuries and was transported to a local hospital where they died later that day.
After investigating multiple employers at the site, OSHA issued citations to the project’s prime contractor, Mad Dog Design and Construction Company, Inc., and subcontractors, Big Hammer, LLC and Forgotten Coast Crane Service, Inc.
“A worker’s life was needlessly lost because the employers did not follow required construction safety procedures,” said OSHA Acting Area Office Director Scott Tisdale in Jacksonville, Florida. “Employers must never overlook fundamental industry safety procedures, such as safety communication and fall protection systems. Ignoring them puts workers at risk and can lead to tragedies like this one.”
Specifically, the agency issued citations as follows:
  • Mad Dog Design and Construction Company, Inc. allowed workers to erect and brace roof trusses while they stood on the top plates of the walls and roof truss components with no fall protection system in place, for which the company received a serious violation. Proposed penalties are $6,250.
  • Big Hammer, Inc. received serious violations for failing to ensure employees used fall protection systems while erecting roof trusses, inadequate storing and installing of prefabricated roof trusses, which exposed workers to fall, struck-by and crushed-by hazards. The company also allowed unqualified employees to perform hand signal activities for crane operations. Proposed penalties are $25,001.
  • Forgotten Coast Crane Service, Inc. received one serious violation for failing to proof-test custom made hooks used to hoist 45-foot-long roof trusses, and a second for not maintaining communication with the crane operator while lifting trusses, exposing workers to struck-by hazards. Proposed penalties are $8,037.
EPA Cites Flint Scrapyard for Alleged Clean Air Act Violation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a finding of violation to Fritz Enterprises, Inc., a scrapyard in Flint, Michigan, alleging Clean Air Act violations by failing to prevent the release of ozone-depleting substances into the atmosphere.
Fritz Enterprises failed to verify that all refrigerants had been properly recovered from the appliances accepted by their scrapyard. These violations caused emissions of substances, including chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the stratospheric ozone layer that protects life on earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. These violations also caused emissions of substitute refrigerants that contribute to global warming and climate change.
EPA has notified Fritz Enterprises of their noncompliance and met with company representatives on Jan.18 to discuss next steps.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has several enforcement options to address the alleged violations, including administrative or judicial civil action.
Learn more about EPA’s air enforcement on the website.
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