What’s on OSHA’s Mind?

What’s on OSHA’s Mind?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has two areas that affect IBT customers and their workers more than anything currently being concentrated on: the issue of combustible dust and the question of who’s responsible for providing and/or paying for personal protective equipment (PPE).


Combustible Dust

Certain combustible substances, when divided into a dust-like form and suspended in air, can become explosive. Industries that have combustible dust include food (for example, candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour and feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (for example, aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium and zinc) and fossil fuel power generation. To address this potential hazard, OSHA issued a directive (CPL 03-00-006) providing field inspectors guidelines for conducting inspections in facilities that generate or handle combustible dusts. The directive, issued in October, 2007, was part of its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on combustible dusts.

As a result of a recent catastrophic accident involving a combustible dust explosion at a sugar refinery, OSHA has decided to intensify its focus on this hazard and has reissued the directive on the directive (CPL 03-00-008, effective March 11, 2008) to increase its enforcement activities and to focus on specific industry groups that have experienced either frequent combustible dust incidents or combustible dust incidents with catastrophic consequences. The Agency will increase its activities in outreach, training, the creation and dissemination of guidance and educational materials and cooperative ventures with stakeholders, as well as enhancing its enforcement activities through this amendment to the NEP. The purpose of this NEP is to inspect facilities that generate or handle combustible dusts which pose a deflagration or other fire hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations, regardless of particle size or shape; deflagrations can lead to explosions.

Combustible dusts are often either organic or metal dusts that are finely ground into very small particles, fibers, fines, chips, chunks, flakes, or a small mixture of these. Types of dusts include, but are not limited to: metal dust, such as aluminum and magnesium; wood dust; plastic dust; biosolids; organic dust, such as sugar, paper, soap, and dried blood; and dusts from certain textiles. Some industries that handle combustible dusts include: agriculture, chemicals, textiles, forest and furniture products, wastewater treatment, metal processing, paper products, pharmaceuticals, and recycling operations (metal, paper, and plastic).

Combustible dusts found in grain handling facilities are covered by 29 CFR1910.272 but other facilities where dust is found are covered by several OSHA standards. In situations where the facility being inspected is not a grain handling facility, the lab results indicate that the dust is combustible, and the combustible dust accumulations not contained within dust control systems or other containers, such as storage bins, are extensive enough to pose a deflagration, explosion, or other fire hazard, then citations under 29 CFR 1910.22 (housekeeping) or, where appropriate, 29 CFR 1910.176(c) (housekeeping in storage areas) may generally be issued. For other workplaces not covered by 1910.272, but where combustible dust hazards exist within dust control systems or other containers, citations under section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act (the General Duty Clause) may generally be issued for deflagration, other fire, or explosion hazards.

Paying for PPE

After much deliberation and discussions, OSHA amended 29 CFR 1910.132, Personal Protective Equipment, General Requirements to clarify who must pay for personal protective equipment. Except as stated below, protective equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), used to comply with this part, shall be provided by the employer at no cost to employees.*

  • The employer is not required to pay for non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots) and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear, provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the job-site.
  • When the employer provides metatarsal guards and allows the employee, at his or her request, to use shoes or boots with built-in metatarsal protection, the employer is not required to reimburse the employee for the shoes or boots.
  • Logging boots required by 29 CFR 1910.266(d)(1)(v)
  • Everyday clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots; or ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen. The employer must pay for replacement PPE, except when the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE.
  • Where an employee provides adequate protective equipment he or she owns, the employer may allow the employee to use it and is not required to reimburse the employee for that equipment.

IBT Safety provides a complete selection of PPE. In addition, we can also help you make sure you are in compliance with these and all other OSHA standards. Let us know if you want more information or would like assistance in any matter regarding safety matters, equipment, compliance, training or general consulting.

For more information, contact IBT Safety.


* Note: When the provisions of another OSHA standard specify whether or not the employer must pay for specific equipment, the payment provisions of that standard shall prevail.


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