A dust explosion can do more than destroy a building. Combustible dust explosions cause deaths and life-changing injuries, bring economic hardship to local communities, and put companies at risk of permanently going out of business. In many combustible dust incidents, employers and employees didn't know that a hazard even existed.

A 2008 explosion at a sugar refinery took the lives of 14 people and seriously injured dozens of others. OSHA fined the company $4,050,000 for the 124 violations found at its plant after the explosion, plus an additional $2 million for the 97 violations found after an inspection of its other facility.

The citations alleged, among other safety and health hazards, that the company failed to properly address combustible dust hazards. The company has agreed to correct all deficiencies, and has established preventative maintenance and housekeeping programs.

Full-time safety professionals or consultants will conduct safety audits for a three-year period and evaluate the company's programs related to managing combustible dust hazards, such as housekeeping, preventative maintenance and protective equipment for workers.

OSHA has published guidance materials on combustible dust, the agency has a national emphasis program (CPL 03-00-008) to focus inspections on facilities at risk, it has published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and it's held informal stakeholder meetings to gather information to help it develop a standard.

Tune in for J.J. Keller & Associates’ upcoming complimentary Webcast, Combustible Dust: Are You at Risk?, on Tuesday, August 24, at 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. ET / 12 noon MT / 11 a.m. PT). The Webcast will define the hazards, highlight OSHA's outreach and enforcement efforts, and describe hazard identification and control strategies for this hot topic.

Do you have questions on this topic? If so, please let J.J. Keller know. The company will try to incorporate the answer into the material presented during the Webcast. It will also provide time for questions at the end of the Webcast.