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House bill may help protect factory workers

A previously unsuccessful federal workplace safety bill is being granted another chance at passage. Democratic representatives from California and Connecticut have reintroduced H.R. 691 entitled the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act. The bill's enactment would help to ensure that the rate of factory worker injuries in certain industries drops by preventing explosions resulting from combustible dust.

In 2007, an unexpected combustible dust explosion at a Georgia sugar factory injured dozens of workers and took the lives of 14 others. Since that time, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) estimates that 50 similar combustible dust fires or explosions have caused the death of at least 15 American workers and injured more than 125. H.R. 691 would mandate that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) take steps to reduce the likelihood of these kinds of accidents.

Specifically, OSHA would be tasked with issuing standards and protections at both the interim and final stages aimed at reducing combustible dust explosions and fires. These protections would apply to workplaces in which sugar, coal, metal and wood dusts accumulate and pose a risk to workers. The final standard would be more expansive than immediate interim requirements.

The bill's sponsors are particularly concerned that special interests within the business community have limited OSHA's ability to prevent these kinds of potentially fatal accidents. By mandating that OSHA act, Congress can help to prioritize worker safety in certain industries most in need of protection. Concerned citizens should contact their Congressional representatives to voice their support.

Source: Woodworking Network, "Combustible Dust Bill Re-Introduced in House," Rich Christianson, Feb. 17, 2013

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