OSHA’s combustible dust rulemaking has been delayed, while the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is adding a new standard to address hazard identification and control. These were key messages presented September 20 at a Small Business Administration event attend by ACMA staff.

The dust from grinding or cutting even highly filled composite laminates is “combustible” when tested using OSHA’s approved test methods. OSHA has cited several composites manufacturers for failure to comply with the current version of NFPA Standard 654, notably for poor housekeeping and locating cyclones and other dust collection equipment indoors.

Under OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for combustible dust, the agency is enforcing NFPA standards while it develops its own combustible dust rule. NFPA 654 is the standard for preventing fire and dust explosions from the manufacturing, processing, and handling of combustible particulate solids. Other NFPA standards apply to the hazards of agricultural, metals, wood and sulfur dusts.

According to the September 20 presentation, OSHA has acknowledged problems with the rulemaking. The agency is having trouble finding an approach that covers a wide variety of materials, process and equipment, and devising an enforceable definition of combustible dust.

In the meantime, OSHA is looking for other ways to address combustible dust hazards. Last year’s update to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, for example, classified combustible dust as a “hazardous chemical” and requires employers to provide warnings to workers and customer about hazards and controls.

OSHA has reportedly contributed to the development of a new standard, NFPA 652, which will provide the basic principles of and requirements for identifying and managing the fire and explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solids, and will direct users to other NFPA standards for industry and commodity-specific hazards, such as NFPA 654.

The Chemical Safety Board on July 25 issued its first ever “Most Wanted Safety Improvement” designation to highlight the importance of OSHA issuing a standard to address combustible dust hazards. Several recent combustible dust incidents have killed and injured many workers.

A task group of ACMA’s Government Affairs Committee is reviewing the drafts of the proposed new NFPA 652 standard and the revised NFPA 654 standard. The deadlines for submission of comments are November 15, 2013 for NFPA 652, and July 2, 2014 for NFPA 654.