OSHA Could Subject Waste Industry to Combustible Dust Rule

Date: March 9, 2010

Source: News Room

Waste industry groups are concerned that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is seeking to expand its forthcoming combustible dust rule to cover waste and recycling activities, especially since it represents a reversal from its previous position. The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) observed that OSHA's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) covering combustible dust on Oct. 2009 runs contrary to a previous understanding elaborated in a Sep. 2008 OSHA memo that said "transfer stations, materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and landfills have no history of combustible dust explosions."

But the October 2009 ANPR specifically names recycling as one of a handful of examples of "industries that may have combustible dust hazards." A table in the ANPR includes "waste management and remediation services," which according to OSHA has been associated with three combustible dust incidents since 1980. In response, NSWMA argues: "That a limited handful of niche facilities that happen to fall within the same six digit NAICS code that includes the thousands of solid waste transfer stations, MRFs and landfills that have operated for decades without any combustible dust incidents does not justify OSHA imposing new and costly regulations on those mainstream solid waste and recycling facilities."

NSWMA also worries that its members could incur additional regulatory costs if OSHA also decides to incorporate relevant National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) consensus standards into its rulemaking.


NSWMA Comments on Possible Combustible Dust Rules

  • Calls for a "Reasonable Regulatory Standard" from OSHA

January 19, 2010

Washington, DC The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) has filed comments with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding possible new rules addressing "combustible dust," which likely will be proposed later this year. NSWMA's comments expressed a concern that OSHA has included the solid waste industry as a target for regulation even though in September 2008, OSHA issued an advisory stating there was no history of combustible dust events at transfer stations, materials recovery facilities (MRFs) or landfills.

OSHA recently has been reviewing ways to minimize risks associated with combustible dust. Dust explosions can occur where enough powdered combustible material is present in an enclosed atmosphere and ignition occurs. Common sources of ignition include electrostatic discharge, friction or arcing from machinery or other equipment. The force from such an explosion can cause employee deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings. OSHA previously recognized that there is no record of a combustible dust explosion or conflagration at a solid waste facility.

NSWMA's comments recommend that if OSHA proposes combustible dust rules, the current National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) consensus standard not be the benchmark for their development. Any combustible dust rules that OSHA might propose based on the current NFPA standard could force transfer station and MRF owners and operators to incur significant, unnecessary capital expenses. NSWMA hopes to persuade OSHA to promulgate a more reasonable regulatory standard that defines combustible dust hazards in a more scientifically defensible manner.

NSWMA's President and CEO Bruce J. Parker described the industry's commitment to developing sensible rules in this area, "NSWMA has been working on the combustible dust issue for years, and we recently met with OSHA to express our concerns. We expect to continue our involvement in this issue as OSHA moves towards proposing final rules."

NSWMA a sub-association of the Environmental Industry Associations represents for-profit companies in North America that provide solid, hazardous and medical waste collection, recycling and disposal services, and companies that provide professional and consulting services to the waste services industry. NSWMA members conduct business in all 50 states.

For more information, contact:
Thom Metzger, 202-506-0511

Sign up to receive our free Weekly News Bulletin