October 20, 2009

UFCW Statement on OSHA Rulemaking on Combustile Dust

Rulemaking Important First Step in Explosion Prevention

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), a union representing more than 1.3 million workers across North America, applauds the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) issuance of an Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking for combustible dust hazards in the workplace.

“This notice is an important first step on the way to a permanent rule to ensure the safety of millions of American workers,” said Jackie Nowell, Director of the UFCW’s Occupational Safety and Health Office. “More than 900 workers have been killed or injured since 1980 because of combustible dust accidents. These are avoidable tragedies that must be stopped.”

The UFCW also urges OSHA to work quickly to issue a tough rule that will protect workers.

“We can’t wait any longer,” said Nowell, “the time for a tough, comprehensive rule on combustible dust is now. We hope that employers, unions, and OSHA can work together to make this badly needed protection a reality.”

On February 19, 2008, immediately following the Imperial Sugar explosion in Port Wentworth, Ga. that killed 14 workers, the UFCW and  International Brotherhood of Teamsters petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for combustible dust in general industry noting that “workers who are employed in facilities where uncontrolled combustible dust emissions are present face ‘grave danger’ of experiencing fatalities or serious injuries as a result of dust explosions and resultant fires.”

This Advance Notice is the first step toward rulemaking since that time.

The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers in North America, with nearly 1 million working in grocery stores and 250,000 working in the meatpacking and other food processing industries.