Friday, September 25, 2009

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Again Fails to Stand for Better Safety Rules for America's Workers

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Several international unions representing hundreds of thousands of chemical and food industry workers today again criticized the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for not recommending strong standards to prevent deadly explosions in factories handling combustible dusts, despite the board’s prior endorsement of such a step.

The unions reacted to the CSB’s new report on the deadly sugar dust explosion on Feb. 7, 2008, at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia. The explosion killed fourteen people, injured scores of others and severely damaged the plant.

“The Imperial Sugar tragedy is compelling evidence of the need for stricter OSHA regulation on combustible dust,” said Steve Sallman, Health and Safety Specialist from the United Steelworkers (USW). “Without a regulation, upper management will typically not commit the resources needed to achieve compliance, or, more importantly, to protect their employees.”

“As recently as 2006, the CSB recommended to the Congress that OSHA adopt a comprehensive new standard on combustible dust, but today they let that ball drop,” said Eric Frumin, Health and Safety Coordinator, Change to Win.

"The CSB’s leadership is a remnant of the Bush administration’s dangerous legacy for America’s workers," said Jackie Nowell, Occupational Safety and Health Director for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “If the Board continues to ignore its obligation to oversee the scope of our safety regulations, it will require new leadership to assure that its mission is accomplished.”

In a November 2006 report, the CSB pointed out serious deficiencies in OSHA’s various standards on combustible dust hazards. That report identified hundreds of combustible dust incidents over the last 25 years, causing nearly 120 deaths and hundreds more injuries.

On Feb. 19, 2008, immediately following the Imperial Sugar explosion, the UFCW and International Brotherhood of Teamsters petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for combustible dust in general industry noting that “workers who are employed in facilities where uncontrolled combustible dust emissions are present face ‘grave danger’ of experiencing fatalities or serious injuries as a result of dust explosions and resultant fires.” To this date, no standard has been set to protect America’s workers.

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John Astad said...

Why wasn't the CSB recommendation that flame resistant clothing (FRC's)be worn by workers that are exposed to a combustible dust flash fire environment?

Many of the burn injuries could of been minimized if the proper PPE in FRC's worn. NFPA has a standard for this also and wasn't referenced in the Report. What was CSB thinking when they wrote this document?

Did they forget the dozens of victims that spent months in the Georgia burn unit? I understand that Imperial Sugar now has workers donning FRC's This should be a message for all in industry to do likewise where combustible dust fire and explosion hazards exist.

NFPA 2113, Standard on Selection, Care, Use and Maintenance of Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire.

Jeffrey C. Nichols said...

The CSB report characterizes the sate of industry in this country. European countries have long implemented ATEX standards as law for preventing fires and explosions in process industry. In the United States, we have had current best engineering practices, NFPA and FM Global standards for preventing these type incidences for decades, but many in industry have ignored them, unless prompted by OSHA or their insurance company. This attitude gets people hurt. It opens your company up to lawsuits and affects your reputation in your community, industry, and with your customers. I have had many mangers tell me they have run their plants for years with no incidences of fires. Many times, I look around these plants and see evidence of combustible dust or other unsafe conditions. Just because you have never experienced a fire or explosion in your factory does NOT mean it cant happen to you. Understand that your processes aren't static. They change, the product mix changes, machinery and process performance changes over time. Small changes can create disastrous effects. Your plant may be an accident waiting to happen. Do not ignore warning signs. Smelling smoke, small fires, muffled booms are all warning signs of larger impending events. If you have combustible dust, it is just a matter of time. Take heed of the CSB report, and implement current best engineering standards at your facility, before it is too late.