September 24, 2009 The Pump Handle 0Comment

WTOC in Savannah, GA is reporting that Georgia’s Senators, Republicans Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, are calling on OSHA to issue a regulation to protect workers from the dangers related to combustible dust.  WTOC says that the Senators were brief today by officials of the Chemical Safety Board on the causes of the Feb. 7, 2008, explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery that killed 14 people and left others with serious burns and injuries.

Senator Isakson said:

“I believe we should embrace the findings of the Chemical Safety Board, including the recommendation that OSHA establish mandatory standards modeled after the National Fire Protection Association guidelines.  Sen. Chambliss and I are working closely with Secretary Solis to ensure that the lessons we have learned as a result of the Port Wentworth disaster will help us prevent future tragedies.”

Senator Chambliss added:

“As public servants, it is our responsibility to do everything we can from a federal standpoint to ensure this type of tragedy never occurs again.”

After reading this news account, I called Tammy Miser, whose brother Shawn died in 2005 from an aluminum dust explosion, to hear her reaction.  Tammy’s been fighting for years to have OSHA issue a standard to address combustible dust hazards.

“I’m really excited to hear of the Georgia Senators’ support for an OSHA rule.   A lot of families have been waiting  a long time for this.  It goes to show that they haven’t forgotten us.  It’s also nice to see that this is not a partisan issue—-it is matter of doing the right thing and preventing these dust-related explosions from ever happening again.”

I’ve heard and seen for myself Senator Isakson’s compassion for victims of workplace fatalities.  (He keeps a photo of Junior Hamner, one of the deceased West Virginia Sago miners, on his nightstand.)   If he teams up with Tammy Miser to get this combustible dust rule in place, get out of their way!  They’ll make sure OSHA gets it done.

In the Dept of Labor’s most recent regulatory agenda (May 2009), OSHA didn’t promise a proposed rule on combustible dust this year or next.  It indicated it would issue a pre-rulemaking notice in August, with  stakeholder meetings (necessary???) planned in December.   When DOL’s latest version of its regulatory agenda comes out next month, we’ll see if OSHA has a more ambitious timeline to get these much-needed explosion-prevention rules in place.  


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