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On April 30, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act of 2008, which mandates OSHA to issue a rule regarding combustible industrial dusts.
The bill was introduced on March 4, 2008 in response to an explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Pent Wentworth, Georgia. It requires OSHA to issue a rule to include combustible dusts as part of OSHA’s current Hazard Communication standard in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200(c). If enacted into law, OSHA must issue an interim rule within 90 days of the bill’s enactment and a final rule within 18 months of enactment.
The Bush Administration strongly opposes the bill because, in its view, the 90-day and 18-month requirements do not allow for a thorough regulatory and economic analysis. Another Bush Administration objection was addressed by an amendment which expanded the time to comply with the interim rule from 30 days to six months. For further information on the White House opposition, see the Statement of Administration Policy.
Core Provisions: This Act would expand the existing Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Act enhances the penalties for “repeat” and “willful” violations, increasing employer fines from $70,000 to $100,000 and allowing imprisonment of management employees for up to ten years. The Act also prohibits unclassified citations, which may increase the likelihood of collateral state litigation and criminal prosecutions. Furthermore, the Act provides for greater protection for “whistleblowers” by creating new procedural options and remedies for employees who are discriminated against for reporting unsafe conditions or for refusing to perform duties because of a danger of serious injury or impairment to health. For instance, the time to file discrimination charges is extended from 30 to 180 days and employees are permitted to object to government findings and request a hearing. In addition, employees may receive all reasonable costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees. Finally, the Act requires employers to provide personal protective equipment to employees at no cost.
Status: Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Woolsey (D-CA) introduced S.1244 and H.R.2049, respectively, on April 26, 2007. S.1244 has been referred to the HELP Committee. H.R.2049 has been referred to the Subcommittee of Workforce Protections of the House Committee Education and Labor.