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Safety rules needed on dust explosions and workplace injury

The Chemical Safety Board evaluates other agencies' safety regulations regarding chemical hazards and makes recommendations for change. The chairman of that board has initiated a stepped-up effort to influence federal regulators to establish a nationwide set of standards to protect workers nationwide, including in Colorado, from combustible dust hazards. From 2008 to 2012, the board reports that there were 29 deaths and 161 incidents of workplace injury from combustible dust accidents.

The chairman is pushing federal agencies, particularly OSHA, to take action on recommendations the board made as early as 2006. At that time it requested OSHA to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for combustible dust regulation. Although OSHA did enact enhanced standards it did not attempt to implement a comprehensive nationwide standard across all industries. The board chairman pointed out that the current administration tried to push through a comprehensive dust standard, but that effort has been frozen due to a decidedly broken rule-making process.

The chairman also pointed out that the government's rule-making ability for safety standards can take 20 years to begin and complete. He pointed out that a recent RAND Corporation report concluded that American workers are three times more likely to die on the job than British workers. Furthermore, he quoted the OSHA Director as telling a news reporter that the standards process is broken. OSHA commented that it was continuing to push forward on combustible dust rule-making.

The governmental maze referred to by the Chemical Safety Board is not to be confused with a worker's basic right to compensation in Colorado or elsewhere for medical expenses and disability wages in the event of a workplace injury. If a worker is injured by a combustible dust explosion at work, coverage under the workers' compensation system kicks in to provide basic insurance protection for the worker. In the event of death, the deceased worker's immediate family will receive statutorily prescribed benefits.

Source: govexec.com, "Chemical Safety Board Chief Warns of Deadly Factory Explosions", Charles S. Clark, Sept. 2, 2014

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