September 17, 2020

CSB: Perceived Conflicts Hamper Management, Control of Combustible Dust

A new report issued by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board identifies normalization of risk and perceived conflicts between safety and cost and between safety and production as barriers to the improvement of control and mitigation of combustible dust hazards. CSB’s new “Dust Hazard Learning Review” summarizes feedback on the management and control of combustible dust from companies, regulators, workers, and others affected by dust-related hazards. The report describes the challenges facing each stakeholder group and is intended to provide further insight and understanding of combustible dust hazards. Responses gathered during CSB’s “call to action” following the 2017 dust explosions at the Didion Milling facility in Cambria, Wisconsin, that killed five workers and injured 14 others are the primary focus of the report.

CSB’s report discusses the importance of the language used to describe combustible dust and its mitigation and suggests that it be presented as a distinct hazard.

“Changing the common term ‘housekeeping’ to something that implies a serious hazard may have a generative effect on the safety of facilities,” the report explains.

Respondents voiced concerns that most compliance-based training programs for combustible dust hazards lack practical application. CSB’s report identifies learning as an area in need of attention. For example, perhaps training programs should be developed consistent with adult education models, which the report notes “have been shown to be a superior way to facilitate awareness.” Another common theme in the responses was that the sharing of critical safety information between companies, industries, and regulators occurs infrequently. Respondents suggested 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.”

For further details, see the full report on CSB’s website (PDF).

Combustible dust safety is one of CSB’s “drivers of critical chemical safety change,” which are key initiatives identified by CSB. These “drivers” were previously known as CSB’s “most wanted safety improvements”—a list of changes that, in the agency’s view, are most likely to achieve significant improvements in safety across the U.S. if implemented. Other areas identified by CSB include modernizing U.S. process safety management regulations, emergency response and planning, preventive maintenance, and safe hot work practices.