In this explosive series, we turn our attention to a potentially deadly hazard prevalent in, but not limited to, manufacturing and processing industries: combustible dust. The series explains what combustible dust is, how the risks are quantified, what a dust hazard analysis entails, and how to mitigate the hazard and protect workers. We hope this information can be used to minimize the risk of a combustible dust flash fire or explosion in your facility.
Combustible dust is a significant industrial hazard that can result in catastrophic injuries and loss of life. Since 2007, when they first issued their Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP), OSHA has focused on protecting the health and safety of workers potentially exposed to combustible dust flash fires and explosions. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor revised OSHA’s NEP to better target industries more likely to have combustible dust hazards. OSHA’s new approach in identifying locations to inspect for combustible dust hazards is a significant step toward protecting workers in the newly identified industries (outlined below).
HOW HAS OSHA’S COMBUSTIBLE DUST NEP EVOLVED?
OSHA NEPs are special enforcement programs that concentrate resources on hazards presenting higher risks and high-hazard industries. OSHA’s 2007 Combustible Dust NEP was reissued in 2008 following the devastating sugar dust explosion and subsequent fire at a sugar refinery near Savannah, Georgia, causing 14 deaths and multiple injuries.
Since then, OSHA has compiled extensive data on industries most susceptible to combustible dust hazards. They looked at enforcement data based on thousands of combustible dust inspections conducted between 2013 and 2017 – resulting in 3,389 violations. OSHA determined that wood processing, agricultural, food production, and lumber production industries had the highest numbers of hazards. This enforcement data and combustible dust incident reports from 2016 to 2018 formed the basis of the NEP revisions. The 2023 NEP replaces the 2008 directive and remains in effect until OSHA issues a cancellation notice.
WHAT INDUSTRIES DOES THE REVISED NEP TARGET?
OHSA lists 86 industries with a higher likelihood of combustible dust hazards and a higher number of workers exposed in Appendix B of OSHA Directive CPL 03-00-008, Revised Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program. New to the 2023 revision are the following industries:
- Commercial Bakeries
- Printing Ink Manufacturing
- Cut Stock, Resawing Lumber, and Planing (peripheral milling of wood)
- Leather and Hide Tanning and Finishing
- Truss Manufacturing
- Grain and Field Bean Merchant Wholesalers
Additionally, OSHA removed industries with a lower likelihood of combustible dust hazards and a lower number of workers exposed from the list of targeted industries. These industries include:
- Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation
- Cookie and Cracker Manufacturing
- Pharmaceutical Preparation Manufacturing
- Unlaminated Plastic Profile Shape Manufacturing
- Noncurrent Carrying Wiring Device Manufacturing
- Blind and Shade Manufacturing
WHAT DOES OSHA LOOK FOR DURING A COMBUSTIBLE DUST INSPECTION?
The NEP provides in-depth inspection and citation procedures. The list below includes some elements of an OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) inspection:
- Plant’s history of fires and explosions
- Accumulations of combustible dust
- Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
- Electrical classification drawings and documents
- Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA) findings
- Dust collection and other equipment
- Ignition sources
- Engineering controls in place
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
The NEP provides citation guidance for CSHOs in Section XI, listing the various OSHA standards and regulations to reference when issuing citations. Companies may receive citations for noncompliance with housekeeping, ventilation, electrical, PPE, and many other enforceable requirements. Citations result in financial penalties, which in 2023 increased to $15,625 per violation. Maximum penalties for willful or repeated violations are significantly higher, with a maximum of $156,259 per violation.
WHAT DOES THE NEP SAY ABOUT REQUIRED PPE?
Combustible dust is a flash fire hazard, requiring workers potentially exposed to wear flame resistant (FR) clothing. Employers may be cited for failing to provide, maintain and ensure the use of PPE. Section XI of the NEP provides CSHO citation guidance, and Subsection A.7. clearly states:
“Citations under 29 CFR 1910.132(a) (the general requirement to provide and ensure the use of protective equipment, including protective clothing) may be issued where employee exposures to potential burn injuries are documented.”
Additionally, the NEP advises that OSHA CSHOs should wear FR clothing during combustible dust inspections. Appendix C of the NEP also provides sample PPE violations for CSHOs to reference.
As OSHA continues to prioritize the inspection of facilities with a high probability of combustible dust that could cause flash fire or explosion hazards, ensure your workers are protected with the proper FR clothing. Tyndale has plenty of resources with in-depth information on flash fire protection. We welcome the opportunity to help you get started today!
References for this post were accessed in May 2023:
Directive CPL 03-00-008, Revised Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program. Retrieved from
Series: Combustible Dust
Make sure you have all the facts about the potential dangers of flash fires or explosions due to combustible dust. Access all posts in this series which explains what combustible dust is, how the risks are quantified, what a dust hazard analysis entails, and how to mitigate the hazard and protect workers.