Blog Author Steve Hudgik
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Yesterday the Teamsters Union joined with the United Food and Commercial Workers in calling on the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency standard on combustible dust following last week’s deadly explosion at a sugar plant in Georgia.
The Teamsters and UFCW filed a petition yesterday with the Labor Department, demanding that OSHA follow the 2006 recommendations of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
Six workers were killed last week and dozens of others seriously injured in a preventable workplace accident at Imperial Sugar in Savannah, Georgia. Combustible dust ignited and caused an explosion.
The Teamsters represent nearly 500 members who are employed at eight sugar processing facilities throughout the United States. UFCW also represents hundreds of workers in sugar plants around the country., including the Domino Sugar plant in Baltimore, where members narrowly escaped harm last November after a combustible dust explosion rocked the facility.
OSHA has ignored the 2006 recommendation from the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to issue a rule that would have prevented these and other combustible dust explosions. That year, the CSB conducted a major study of combustible dust hazards following three worksite dust explosions that killed 14 workers in 2003. The CSB report noted that a quarter of the explosions that occurred between 1980 and 2005 occurred at food industry facilities, including sugar plants.
OSHA’s inaction on this workplace risk follows a pattern of the agency ignoring scientific evidence and its own rule-making guidelines. By law, OSHA was supposed to respond to the CSB’s recommendations within six months.
In 1987, OSHA issued the Grain Dust Standard, which addresses the hazards of combustible grain dust. OSHA could have regulated the explosion hazards posed by combustible dust in American industries beyond grain handling facilities, but at that time, it chose not to, even though the evidence for serious explosion hazard existed then.
The Teamsters and UFCW also call for immediate OSHA inspections of all sugar-producing facilities.
posted by Steve Hudgik
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