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Federal government tries to regulate combustible dust at work

For some Colorado residents, one of the most dangerous things about work could be dust. This dust is highly combustible and could cause serious damage to a workplace and, worse, could seriously injure or kill employees. It may be impossible to completely eliminate the threat in certain industries, but it is an employer's responsibility to work with its employees on how to safely operate in such a high-risk field.

Now, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration may be forced to modify its rules regarding combustible dust if a new bill in the House of Representatives becomes law. The law would force OSHA to deal with combustible dust now, rather than wait for it to complete its normal, drawn-out rule-making process. While OSHA started the process of creating combustible dust regulations four years ago, these rules have still not been finalized or put into place.

In the meantime, the law would make OSHA adopt temporary rules that mirror the National Fire Association Protection standards for combustible dust. Although there have been some objections to using the Fire Association's regulations in every industry, there have also been 50 different combustible dust explosions in the past six years. In that time, there have also been 15 deaths and 127 injuries.

Even if a Colorado employer is in compliance with federal regulations in regards to combustible dust, if one of its employees is injured in an explosion, the employee will receive workers' compensation. Ultimately, it comes down to whether an employee is injured at work. If he or she is, then he or she will be eligible for workers' compensation, and this is true regardless of how hard the employer tries to comply with federal regulations.

Source: Woodworking Network, "Combustible Dust Bill Re-Introduced in House," Rich Christianson, Feb. 17, 2013

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