The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has come out with messaging more targeted than ever on the dangers of combustible dust in the workplace. There have been countless deaths in the workplace that were the direct result of incidents that involved the use of this substance.
If you’ve experienced a significant work injury requiring surgery and that may be career-ending due to combustible dust, it may not surprise you to learn that this material has now been discovered to be quite hazardous. Now that the risks are well understood, it has sparked an outcry for the need to have more clear and explicit OSHA guidance to deal with this problem.
Still, in spite of there being no standard health protocol to address the substance, OSHA has nevertheless been inspecting workplaces for combustible dust and enforcing new rules that prevent it from being used. The General Duty Clause is what OSHA relies on to set its health and safety standards around combustible dust. The administration also references the standards of the NFPA – the National Fire Protection Association.
Combustible dust is defined by OSHA as a material that is solid, combustible, and made up of particulates – distinct pieces. It’s a highly flammable material that also poses a deflagration risk, which is a major problem when the material is suspended in an oxidizing medium. Combustible dust poses a threat to workplace safety no matter what size or shape the particles are, oftentimes leading to severe workplace injuries.
Under certain conditions and concentration levels, exposing combustible dust to a source of ignition may very easily cause an explosion, deflagration, or fire. When there are large amounts of this material throughout a workplace, it can create a chain reaction with devastating consequences.