Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at

March 31, 1978

Honorable Birch Bayh
United States Senate
Washington, D. C. 20510

Dear Senator Bayh:

This is in response to your correspondence which transmitted a letter from Mr. Elden L. Carlson, regarding grain elevator explosions. Please accept my apology for the delay in response.

I, too, am deeply concerned about the recent grain elevator explosions and fires which have caused high loss of life and property damage. Although our investigations of these catastrophes are not yet completed, I am hopeful the causes can be determined and remedial solutions be initiated as quickly as possible.

We are working closely with the industry, Federal and State agencies, and other interested parties to review and research potential causes, Current Federal and State standards and regulations pertaining to grain elevators will also be reviewed.

Enclosed is a copy of the Grain Elevator Industry Hazard Alert booklet, which we have sent to the industry and to other interested parties. We are hopeful that much of the information in the Alert will be helpful to the industry in taking immediate action to correct or implement controls of known potential hazards that cause or contribute to grain dust fire and explosions.

From past inspection data, we know that some elevator operators are lax in controlling the volume of grain dust in the air. During our current inspection efforts, we are paying particular attention to elevator housekeeping conditions and potential sources of ignition to stop or curtail further explosions. Mr. Carlson's allegation that EPA and/or FDA regulations contributed to the recent explosions has been investigated. A Technical Exploratory Meeting was convened by OSHA on December 30, 1977. In attendance were several leading experts from the grain elevator industry as well as top executives from OSHA, EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those present were in agreement that the dust collecting and controlling elements of grain elevators were not the critical issues. The disposition of the dust after collection, however, requires careful evaluation.