Call to action on combustible dust safety

By: Travis Rhoden

Publication: Workplace Safety Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 10/23/2020

CSB provides new guide based on feedback from employers

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) released a new contractor report stemming from the 2017 fatal dust explosion at a Wisconsin milling facility. The document entitled, “Dust Hazard Learning Review,” gathered feedback from industries that handle combustible dust to identify the key barriers to improvement in the control and mitigation of combustible dust hazards.

In 2018, the CSB issued a “Call to Action” to gather comments on the management, control and understanding of combustible dust from companies, regulators, inspectors, safety training providers, researchers, unions and the workers affected by dust related hazards. The CSB received a total of 57 responses which are utilized throughout the safety review.

CSB Chairman Katherine Lemos said, “This learning review represents a new method for the CSB to examine an incident. The outcome of this specific review provides an opportunity for dust hazards to be examined from multiple perspectives, which may allow for a greater understanding of pre-existing assumptions and scenarios.”

The CSB identified the following key issues:

  • Sharing information: The sharing of information between companies, industries, and regulators was the most desired goal requested from the respondents. These respondents felt that having a platform to share information and experiences openly, without fear of reprisal or punishment, would offer the best path forward to learn from others regarding dust hazard mitigations and best practices.
  • Barriers to improvement: Respondents identified the inability to achieve a dust-free environment. Review of the comments revealed that this may have been due to a normalization of risk.
  • Controls: The Call to Action revealed important challenges with the language used to describe combustible dust and its mitigation, suggesting it be presented as a distinct hazard, not simply as an “issue of tidying up the place”. It was also clear that all levels of communication need to improve within facilities that have combustible dust.

In summary, the CSB found that the responses from the “Call to Action” captured several industry wide insights into the issues, concerns, and opportunities faced by dust-producing operations daily.

dust fire elements

About the author
Travis Rhoden - EH&S Editor

Travis is a senior editor with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. He specializes in safety management systems, job hazard analysis, machine guarding, storage rack safety, forklift training and OSHA inspections. 

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