Sending Inspectors to Dust-Prone Factories
March 4, 2008
ATLANTA (AP) - Federal inspections will be carried out
at hundreds of plants where combustible dust is a workplace
hazard, a top safety official said Monday at a sugar refinery
where dust is suspected of causing a deadly explosion.
Ed Foulke Jr., head of the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, announced the inspections while visiting
the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, where a
blast on Feb. 7 killed 12 workers injured dozens more.
OSHA has not completed its investigation of that explosion
but is sending letters to 30,000 companies that deal with
combustible dust to discuss the dangers, Foulke said in
a telephone interview.
A preliminary investigation determined the explosion was
caused by airborne sugar dust in a basement area beneath
the refinery's three giant storage silos, but what ignited
the dust has not yet been determined.
Also Monday, Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., and Rep. George
Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and
Labor Committee, said they will introduce a bill to force
OSHA to issue new regulations governing industrial dust.
Miller scheduled a hearing on the issue for March 12.
Combustible dust standards were put in effect for the
grain industry after a series of explosion in the 1980s,
but OSHA declined to act on a 2006 recommendation by the
U.S. Chemical Safety Board that similar standards be set
up for other industries.
Foulke said Monday that more work must be done to determine
whether existing standards on ventilation and factory
housekeeping can be used to address existing concerns,
and to determine how a standard can be crafted so it makes
sense for different industries with different types of
Miller and Barrow said Congress should step in because
OSHA has failed to act.