U.S. Chemical Safety Board Determines OSHA Response to Seven Open CSB Recommendations to be “Unacceptable”

In a public meeting held in late July, members of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) declared the response by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to seven long-standing recommendations on combustible dust, fuel gas and the Process Safety Management standard to be “unacceptable.” The board also voted to make the adoption of a combustible dust standard for general industry to be the first priority in the CSB’s recently established “Most Wanted Safety Improvements” program, which is intended to lead to stepped-up advocacy for the measure.

“Over the years, the CSB has made a number of recommendations to OSHA in the aftermath of tragic accidents that have killed dozens of workers, injured hundreds more, and caused millions of dollars in property damage,” says CSB chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso. “We are particularly concerned with the lack of action on a much-needed combustible dust standard. Yet insufficient progress has been made, and many years have passed in some cases, without a definitive OSHA response. [This] vote by the board designating OSHA’s responses to be ‘open-unacceptable’ means that we strongly believe these recommended regulatory changes are still needed to save lives and prevent accidents in the chemical industry. At the same time, we voted to keep the recommendations’ status as ‘open,’ as we take heart in comments made by OSHA today that they may consider action in the future.”

The status change action by the CSB concerned the following original recommendations to OSHA:

  • Recommendation to ensure coverage under the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard for atmospheric storage tanks that could be involved in a potential catastrophic release as a result of being interconnected to a covered process with 10,000 pounds of a flammable substance.
  • Recommendation to revise the PSM standard to require management of change (MOC) reviews for organizational changes such as mergers and acquisitions that may impact process safety.
  • Recommendation that OSHA issue a fuel gas safety standard for construction and general industry.

Each of these recommendations was made years earlier following catastrophic accidents, according to the board.

The board also voted OSHA’s response as “open-unacceptable” to four long-standing recommendations, calling for the issuance and expedited action on a comprehensive general industry combustible dust standard.

The first of these recommendations was issued in 2006 following a CSB study on the hazards of combustible dust. The study was initiated following a series of major explosions and fires with a large loss of life and numbers of burn injuries. The CSB found companies ignoring the hazard or failing to take adequate action to mitigate the danger. The board advocated a new standard be based on existing National Fire Protection Association dust explosion standards.

Three years later, following an explosion of combustible sugar dust at the Imperial Sugar Company that killed 14 workers, the CSB called on OSHA to “proceed expeditiously” on its then-announced intention to conduct rulemaking on a dust standard.

In December 2011, the CSB again called on OSHA to move on a dust standard following a series of three iron-dust related flash fires at the Hoeganaes Corp. facility in which five workers lost their lives. The CSB called for the inclusion of metal dusts in the scope of any new standard on dust, and recommended that OSHA issue a proposed rule within one year of the issuance of the recommendation.

The board also designated the issuance of a general industry dust standard as the CSB’s first “Most Wanted Safety Improvement.” Designated recommendations in the program will be subject to more intense agency advocacy efforts.

For more information visit www.csb.gov.