The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for regulating workplaces and holding employers who do not maintain satisfactory working conditions accountable through fines or other punitive measures. While the rules OSHA law delineates are extensive and cover many of the most important and prevalent issues affecting workers in Texas and the rest of the country today, there is always room for improvement. Now, a group of legislators are proposing an addition to OSHA's rules.
The House Democrats introduced a bill that would put OSHA on track to create a rule around combustible dust -- a situation that has proven deadly in the past. OSHA started to create a rule a few years ago, but efforts fell by the wayside. This new legislation would put in place deadlines for OSHA to get a rule on the books. If the bill passes, OSHA would have to create an interim rule within the next year. It would have to propose a permanent rule no more than 18 months later.
The National Fire Protection Association has set standards for combustible dust, but the rules have been optional for other entities like OSHA. The bill would require OSHA to base most of its rule off of the guidelines currently in place by the NFPA. A permanent rule would have to encompass specific cleaning and inspection schedules and instructions, additional employee training, and procedural rules that would minimize the likelihood of an explosion.
Many people in Texas work in industries in which dust explosions can occur. Industries that involve materials like coal, sugar, plastic and wood all face the possibility of dangerous dust explosions. Hopefully OSHA will take this opportunity to create new standards for these industries that will help keep workers safe from harm.
Source: The Center for Public Integrity, "House bill targets deadly dust explosions," Feb. 15, 2013