A new contractor report stemming from the 2017 fatal dust explosion at the Didion Milling facility in Cambria, Wisconsin, has been released by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). The document entitled, “Dust Hazard Learning Review” produced for the CSB by Dynamic Inquiry LLC, gathered feedback from industries that handle combustible dust to identify the key barriers to improvement in the control and mitigation of combustible dust hazards.
On October 24, 2018, the CSB issued a “Call to Action” to gather comments on the management, control and understanding of combustible dust from companies, regulators, inspectors, safety training providers, researchers, unions and the workers affected by dust related hazards. The CSB received a total of 57 responses which are utilized throughout the safety review.
CSB Chairman Katherine Lemos said, “This learning review represents a new method for the CSB to examine an incident. The outcome of this specific review provides an opportunity for dust hazards to be examined from multiple perspectives, which may allow for a greater understanding of pre-existing assumptions and scenarios.”
The CSB identified the following key issues:
- Sharing Information: The sharing of information between companies, industries, and regulators was the most desired goal requested from the respondents. These respondents felt that having a platform to share information and experiences openly, without fear of reprisal or punishment, would offer the best path forward to learn from others regarding dust hazard mitigations and best practices.
- Barriers to Improvement: Respondents identified the inability to achieve a dust-free environment. Review of the comments revealed that this may have been due to a normalization of risk.
- Controls: The Call to Action revealed important challenges with the language used to describe combustible dust and its mitigation, suggesting it be presented as a distinct hazard, not simply as an “issue of tidying up the place”. It was also clear that all levels of communication need to improve within facilities that have combustible dust.
In summary, the CSB found that the responses from the “Call to Action” captured several industry wide insights into the issues, concerns and opportunities faced by dust-producing operations daily.
Chairman Katherine Lemos said, “The CSB hopes that this product provides further insight and understanding of combustible dust hazards. Our goal is to continue to examine incidents from multiple perspectives to better enhance prevention and continually drive chemical safety.”
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating and determining the cause or probable cause of industrial chemical incidents resulting from the accidental release of a regulated or extremely hazardous substance into the ambient air.
The CSB’s core mission activities include conducting incident investigations; formulating preventive or mitigative recommendations based on investigation findings and advocating for their implementation; issuing reports containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations arising from incident investigations; and conducting studies on chemical hazards.
The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.
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