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Combustible dust standard unlikely before 2017

Due to a variety of frustrating circumstances, it seems unlikely that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will release a comprehensive standard in regards to the hazard created by combustible dust. This omission will likely continue to result in injurious and even fatal accidents.

One of the challenges that OSHA faces in creating and ultimately releasing a comprehensive combustible dust standard is that combustible dust is a complex hazard. Unlike more straightforward work-related hazards including significant heights faced by many in the construction industry and even hazards like slick floors in the retail industry, combustible dust is complex in its composition and in its regulation.

Combustible dust can be created by a variety of sources, including some metals and many organic materials including flour and wood. It is therefore difficult to create a comprehensive standard when this kind of hazardous dust is created by the workings of so many different materials within so many different industries.

In addition, OSHA is overextended. We have previously written about the fact that OSHA has a complex and packed agenda, a very tight budget and a lack of many necessary employees. Those employees who do work for OSHA have too much to do and too little time to do it in.

In order to create a proper comprehensive standard, OSHA needs time, money and other resources. It also needs room in its agenda to promote the standard once it is complete. Finally, it needs time and expertise in order to create the standard given the complexity of the subject matter. While the delay in a comprehensive standard is understandable given the circumstances, this delay will likely affect many American workers in truly negative ways. And that is a most regrettable reality.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, “OSHA Poised to Pass on Combustible Dust in 2016,” Brian Dabbs, Jan. 11, 2016

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