March 12, 2008
Contact: Sharon Worthy
WASHINGTON -- Edwin G. Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of occupational safety and health, testified on Capitol Hill today to discuss the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) efforts to protect workers from combustible dust hazards and investigate the cause of the Feb. 7 explosion at Imperial Sugar Refinery in Savannah, Ga.
"OSHA is intensifying its ongoing enforcement, education and outreach programs to ensure that employers and workers are doing everything they are supposed to be doing to protect against combustible dust,¿ Foulke told the House Education and Labor Committee.
Foulke also announced several initiatives that OSHA has undertaken to improve its enforcement and outreach. Employers and employees are urged to review a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration fact sheet titled Hazard Alert: Combustible Dust Explosions, which is available online at www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/OSHAcombustibledust.pdf. The fact sheet provides a descriptive overview of combustible dust hazards and offers suggestions for eliminating these hazards.
Foulke has issued a memorandum to OSHA's state plan administrators urging state-run occupational safety and health agencies to join OSHA in its focus on combustible dust hazards. He has ordered OSHA to refine and expand the combustible dust National Emphasis Program that was announced in October 2007 to focus on facilities most likely to experience catastrophic dust explosions. That directive is available online at www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=3830. Foulke also stated that the agency's Harwood training grant program will include combustible dust as a training topic for grant solicitations for fiscal year 2009.
Additionally, on March 10, OSHA provided a two-hour refresher training on the subject to 700 compliance officers. Foulke also has ordered his staff to prepare guidance for stakeholders to improve hazard communication related to combustible dust.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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