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March 06, 2013
Congress to consider combustible dust proposal

House Democrats have introduced legislation to prevent workplace explosions caused by combustible industrial dusts.

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A huge explosion 5 years ago at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, took the lives of 14 workers, injured dozens, and caused millions of dollars in damage.

According to an investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the blaze was fueled by “massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the packaging building.”

The measure (HR 691) is known as The Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act. It would require OSHA to issue interim protections to prevent combustible dusts such as sugar, coal, metals, and others from building up to hazardous levels and exploding. Although OSHA is at work on a dust standard, sponsors of the bill anticipate it will be several years before final protections are in place.

Rep. George Miller (D-California) noted, “The only way to overcome these unnecessary delays is through the targeted legislation that will expedite protections, because red tape must not be turned into an excuse not to protect workers from a preventable tragedy.”

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