OSHA Issues Directive on Combustible Dust Accumulation

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In late April of this year, OSHA‚ Director of the Enforcement Programs Directorate, Thomas Galassi, issued guidance to OSHA inspectors on determining permissible levels of combustible dust accumulations. This guidance is intended to augment some of the provisions of the Combustible Dust NEP (CPL 03-00-008).

The guidance directs Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) to consider the bulk density of the dust in question before citing an employer for a violation of 1910.22(a)(1) or (2) (General Housekeeping) or 1910.176(c) (Material Handling Housekeeping). Bulk density depends on many factors such as the type of material, dust particle size, and dust particle shape.

The memo also includes specific guidance to CSHO‚ on how to collect dust samples in cases involving low bulk density material, and for sending the samples to OSHA‚ lab in Salt Lake City.

This April 2015 memorandum on Evaluating Hazardous Levels of Accumulation Depth for Combustible Dusts speaks to defenses often available to employers in contested citation cases involving combustible dust, including unreliable or incomplete sample collection by the CSHO, and/or inadequate and unreliable determination of the presence of a hazard i.e., the level of dust accumulation and amount of dust present in a specific area.

In any event, be aware that OSHA recently has taken steps to beef up its inspection and sampling procedure for inspections related to combustible dust.

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