[Senate Hearing 110-963]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
S. Hrg. 110-963
DANGEROUS DUST: IS OSHA DOING ENOUGH TO PROTECT WORKERS?
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE SAFETY
COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, EDUCATION,
LABOR, AND PENSIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
EXAMINING THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA),
FOCUSING ON PROTECTING WORKERS FROM DANGEROUS DUST AT THE WORKPLACE
JULY 29, 2008
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COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR, AND PENSIONS
EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Massachusetts, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut MICHAEL B. ENZI, Wyoming
TOM HARKIN, Iowa JUDD GREGG, New Hampshire
BARBARA A. MIKULSKI, Maryland LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee
JEFF BINGAMAN, New Mexico RICHARD BURR, North Carolina
PATTY MURRAY, Washington JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
JACK REED, Rhode Island LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, New York ORRIN G. HATCH, Utah
BARACK OBAMA, Illinois PAT ROBERTS, Kansas
BERNARD SANDERS (I), Vermont WAYNE ALLARD, Colorado
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio TOM COBURN, M.D., Oklahoma
J. Michael Myers, Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Ilyse Schuman, Minority Staff Director
Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety
PATTY MURRAY, Washington, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
TOM HARKIN, Iowa RICHARD BURR, North Carolina
BARBARA MIKULSKI, Maryland LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, New York PAT ROBERTS, Kansas
BARACK OBAMA, Illinois WAYNE ALLARD, Colorado
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio TOM COBURN, M.D., Oklahoma
EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Massachusetts MICHAEL B. ENZI, Wyoming (ex
(ex officio) officio)
William C. Kamela, Staff Director
Glee Smith, Minority Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2008
Murray, Hon. Patty, Chairman, Subcommittee on Employment and
Workplace Safety, opening statement............................ 1
Isakson, Hon. Johnny, a U.S. Senator from the State of Georgia,
opening statement.............................................. 3
Chambliss, Hon. Saxby, a U.S. Senator from the State of Georgia,
Foulke, Edwin G., Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for
Occupational Safety and Health, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), Washington, DC.......................... 4
Prepared statement........................................... 6
Bresland, John S., Chairman, CEO of U.S. Chemical Safety and
Hazard Investigation Board, Washington, DC..................... 10
Prepared statement........................................... 11
Spencer, Amy, Senior Chemical Engineer, National Fire Protection
Association, Quincy, MA........................................ 38
Prepared statement........................................... 40
Prugh, Richard W., Senior Process Safety Specialist, Chilworth
Technology, Inc., Plainsboro, NJ............................... 42
Prepared statement........................................... 44
Graham, Graham H.,Vice President for Operations, Imperial Sugar
Company, Sugarland, TX......................................... 48
Prepared statement........................................... 50
Statements, articles, publications, letters, etc.:
Senator Harkin............................................... 61
Senator Clinton.............................................. 62
Senator Obama................................................ 63
American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).................. 64
William J. Hargraves, OSHA inspector, retired................ 66
Imperial Sugar Company....................................... 68
DANGEROUS DUST: IS OSHA DOING ENOUGH TO PROTECT WORKERS?
TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2008
Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety,
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:00 a.m. in
room SD-430, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Patty Murray,
chairman of the subcommittee, presiding.
Present: Senators Murray, Brown, and Isakson.
Also Present: Senator Chambliss.
Opening Statement of Senator Murray
Senator Murray. This subcommittee will come to order.
Before we begin, I want to recognize my Ranking Member,
Senator Isakson, and extend a welcome to our colleague from
Georgia, Senator Chambliss, who is going to be here shortly and
will be participating in this hearing today as well.
Just 6\1/2\ months ago, a dangerous buildup of dust fueled
the catastrophic explosion at an Imperial Sugar refinery in
Port Wentworth, GA. Thirteen people were killed. Forty were
injured, some sustaining life-threatening injuries. Three of
those burn victims are still in the hospital today.
This horrific accident brought to the Nation's attention
the danger that dust poses in industries from sugar refining to
pharmaceutical manufacturing to textiles. The Imperial Sugar
disaster was one of the worst industrial accidents in recent
history. Tragically, the cause, like other such explosions, was
Yet despite the hazard it poses, the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration still does not have regulations
governing dust, and some workers are still not aware of how
dangerous it can be. In 2006, the U.S. Chemical Safety and
Hazard Investigation Board, or CSB, completed a study on
combustible dust and made five safety recommendations to OSHA.
Most importantly, the CSB called for a regulatory standard
for dust explosions in general industry, and it suggested that
while developing a new standard, OSHA should improve training
for its inspectors and do more to educate workers and their
employers about dust hazards.
Since that time, 82 new dust explosions have occurred, but
only one recommendation appears to have been implemented by
OSHA. Its National Emphasis Program started in 2007. The
program was reissued March 11, 2008, to provide policies and
procedures for inspecting workplaces which produce dust that is
likely to cause fires or explosions.
We don't yet know the program's impact on worker safety,
but we are particularly troubled that even though OSHA was
specifically warned that its existing dust standards were
inadequate and even though it was given guidance by the CSB on
preventive steps to avoid future strategies, OSHA has failed to
I believe that each one of us here today shares the same
goal--to ensure that every worker returns home safely to his or
her family at the end of the day. That is why OSHA was created,
to enforce workplace safety laws and regulations and to protect
workers from injury, illness, and death on the job.
My colleagues and I are very concerned that OSHA has been
dangerously ineffective in helping us to reach that goal. While
OSHA last week cited Imperial Sugar a total of $8.8 million for
violations at the Port Wentworth plant and a sister plant in
Gramercy, LA, those penalties come far too late for the 13
workers who died or for the workers who may be permanently
damaged by that explosion.
Without a specific dust-related standard, OSHA's ability to
levy specific citations or penalties is limited. Today, at this
hearing, we are going to hear about steps that can be taken to
regulate and prevent the dangerous buildup of dust so that we
can prevent future disasters.
I want to thank all of our witnesses and our guests for
being here today. This morning, we are going to hear from Edwin
Foulke, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA; John
Bresland, Chairman and CEO of the U.S. Chemical Safety and
Hazard Investigation Board; Amy Spencer, a senior chemical
engineer at the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy,
MA; Richard Prugh, a senior process safety specialist at
Chilworth Technology in Plainsboro, NJ; and Graham Graham, Vice
President for Operations at the Imperial Sugar Company in
Mr. Graham will testify on his own behalf about the
conditions he witnessed at the Port Wentworth facility. I ask
that Mr. Foulke and Mr. Bresland, who are on the first panel,
stay so you can listen to our second panel of witnesses in case
we have additional questions for either of you.
We know that standards for combustible dust can work. OSHA
responded in 1987 to a series of grain dust explosions by
issuing a grain dust standard that has, according to OSHA's own
figures, decreased the number of such explosions and fires by
60 percent. The grain industry helped sponsor the research
leading to the standard, as well as the launch of a safety
education program. Industry leaders tell us it has dramatically
improved the grain and feed industry's safety record.
Today, we want to send a message to OSHA and to all
industries in which dust buildup is a hazard. One worker's
death or injury is unacceptable if it is preventable. I hope
this hearing will leave us with a good idea of what should be
done and how Congress can help ensure that OSHA does its job to
protect all workers in the country.
With that, I will turn to my Ranking Member, Senator
Isakson, and I want to thank him for working with us as we put
this hearing together. I know it is extremely important to you
and to your colleague Senator Chambliss, who has joined us
Opening Statement of Senator Isakson
Senator Isakson. Well, thank you very much, Chairman
It is always a pleasure to work with you, whether it is on
mine safety, asbestos, or combustible dust. It has always been
a privilege to work with you, and I appreciate your willingness
to hold this hearing today. It is very important to Senator
Chambliss and myself in particular because the lives that were
lost were Georgians and the facility is in our State.
On Thursday, February 7, 2008, a massive explosion occurred
at the Imperial Sugar refinery in a Savannah, GA, suburb called
Port Wentworth. As a result of the explosion, 13 workers died,
15 went to the burn center, and 3 remain there today, 2 in very
Days after the disaster, Senator Chambliss and I traveled
to Port Wentworth and witnessed firsthand the absolute
devastation and tragedy of the explosion. We met with the
grieving families, all of them, at a gymnasium and assured them
that we would work hard to understand fully the cause of the
disaster so that we can prevent it and, hopefully, have it
never happen again.
At that time, Senator Enzi, Senator Kennedy, Senator
Murray, Senator Chambliss, and myself sent a letter to
Secretary Chao at the Department of Labor and to the then-
interim executive of the Chemical Safety Board, urging them to
begin a comprehensive and thorough investigation of the
explosion. On Friday, OSHA released its findings, which have
been referred to by Senator Murray.
OSHA investigators concluded that Imperial egregiously and
willfully violated safety and health standards. OSHA officials
believe the employer in this case was aware of the hazard and
did little to abate the problem. The agency has charged
Imperial Sugar with violations of both existing standards and
the general duty clause, the section of that act that obligates
employers to maintain a safe workplace free from recognized
These are gravely serious charges that I do not take
lightly, nor should anybody take lightly. The company has
declined our invitation to testify today, but has responded in
writing to OSHA's charges. I would ask unanimous consent that
that response be entered in the record.
Senator Murray. Without objection.
[The information referred to can be found in Additional
Senator Isakson. I welcome our witnesses today. I thank
them very much for their hard work, and I look forward to their
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Senator Murray. Thank you, Senator Isakson.
Statement Of Senator Chambliss
Senator Chambliss. Chairman Murray, thank you for giving me
the opportunity, as someone who is not a member of this
committee, to participate in this hearing that is so critically
important to not just our State, but to other facilities around
I thank you for your leadership on this issue. You and
Senator Isakson have been great champions for workers, and the
way you have conducted yourselves not just on this
investigation, but previous ones going back to the Sago mine
Thanks also to Senator Kennedy and Senator Enzi for their
leadership, and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here
today to look into the matter surrounding the tragedy that
occurred at Port Wentworth and look forward to working with you
and my colleague Senator Isakson in developing the types of
policies that will ensure that we are doing everything possible
to not allow something like this to happen again.
Thank you for letting me participate.
Senator Murray. Thank you very much.
With that, we will turn to our first two witnesses for
their opening statements, and we will begin with Mr. Foulke.
STATEMENT OF EDWIN G. FOULKE, JR., ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF LABOR
FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH, OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND
HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA), WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Foulke. Thank you. Madam Chairwoman, Senator Isakson,
Senator Chambliss, thank you for the opportunity to appear here
today to discuss the results of OSHA's investigation of the
Imperial Sugar explosion and our ongoing efforts to protect
employees from combustible dust hazards.
Before I begin my testimony, I would like to express, on
behalf of everyone at OSHA, our deepest personal condolences to
the families of those who were killed or injured in the
explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery. We at OSHA firmly
believe that no employee should have to risk serious injury or
death to earn a living. All of the employees at OSHA work
tirelessly every day to ensure that every employee returns home
safely to their loved ones.
Over the past 5\1/2\ months, OSHA has conducted a thorough
investigation of the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion. After
careful review and analysis of the evidence and the inspection
of the two facilities, OSHA determined that, No. 1, the senior
management of Imperial Sugar was aware of the combustible dust
hazards at their facilities; No. 2, that they did not take the
necessary steps to abate these hazards; and No. 3, because they
did not control or eliminate the combustible dust hazards, the
conditions existed to support the explosion that occurred on
Even after the February 7 explosion at Port Wentworth,
where 13 people were killed and more than 40 injured, Imperial
Sugar failed to ensure that their other facility in Gramercy,
LA, would be free of combustible dust hazards. I personally
sent a letter to the CEO of Imperial Sugar on March 7, urging
him to take the appropriate steps to comply with OSHA safety
and health standards.
Yet, on March 14, 2008, 5 weeks after the Port Wentworth
explosion, the OSHA compliance officers sent to inspect the
Gramercy facility discovered potential ignition sources along
with massive quantities of combustible dust. Such complete
disregard for the safety and health of their employees resulted
in OSHA issuing the third-largest proposed penalty in the
agency's history against Imperial Sugar.
Specifically, the Port Wentworth investigation resulted in
proposed penalties of more than $5 million, with citations
alleging 61 egregious willful violations and 51 serious
violations. As a result of the other inspection at Gramercy,
OSHA issued an additional 47 egregious willful and 42 serious
violations and the proposed penalty of approximately $3.7
million. Combined, OSHA cited 218 citations of 60 different
standards for a total proposed penalty against Imperial Sugar
of more than $8.7 million.
I know the subcommittee is very interested in the details
of this case, but I would respectfully remind you that since
Imperial Sugar has contested these citations, the matter is now
in litigation. In addition, OSHA procedures call for a review
of all willful fatality cases for potential referral to
Department of Justice. As a result, I am not at liberty to
discuss the underlying evidence of our investigation.
OSHA already has effective standards that address
combustible dust hazards, including standards covering general
requirements for the prevention of accumulation of combustible
dust, electrical safety in hazardous locations, ventilation,
and hazard communication. The agency continues to inspect
facilities with a high probability of combustible dust
explosion through its National Emphasis Program, having
conducted more than 300 inspections. OSHA will also have
inspected all sugar refineries by the end of the calendar year.
In addition, OSHA is addressing combustible dust hazards
through education, outreach, and by proposing to amend existing
standards to clarify employers' responsibilities concerning
combustible dust. OSHA actions include:
1. The distribution of our 2005 Safety and Health
Information Bulletin entitled ``Combustible Dust in Industry:
Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosion''
to 30,000 workplaces;
2. The release of a hazard alert to inform employers and
employees how to identify and abate combustible dust;
3. The release of a poster to visually communicate hazard
4. The development of a dedicated and comprehensive Web
page to educate stakeholders;
5. The development of guidance on hazard communication
requirements as well as addressing any potential deficiencies
through NEP inspection;
6. The modification of language in the housekeeping
provision to clarify employer requirements to prevent the
accumulation of combustible dust; and
7. The continuation of advanced combustible dust training
for compliance officers.
Madam Chairwoman, Imperial Sugar is a tragic example of
what happens when employers fail to uphold their obligations to
protect their employees as required by the Occupational Safety
and Health Act. The OSH Act places the responsibility for
providing a safe and healthy workplace on employers. OSHA will
always provide assistance to those employers who want to meet
their legal and, I believe, their moral responsibilities.
However, in extreme cases, such as Imperial Sugar, OSHA
will use the appropriate penalties allowed by law when the
evidence suggests that there is plain indifference or reckless
disregard for the employees' safety.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for inviting me here today, and
I would be happy to answer any questions that you have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Foulke follows:]
Prepared Statement of Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Isakson, and members of the
committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear today to discuss the
results of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's)
investigation of the Imperial Sugar explosion, OSHA's continued
enforcement activities under our National Emphasis Program for
combustible dust, and our ongoing efforts to protect the safety and
health of the Nation's working men and women who are exposed to
combustible dust hazards. The catastrophic accident at the Imperial
Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, GA, which occurred on February 7, and
killed 13 and injured approximately 40 more employees, highlights the
seriousness of the issue.
All of us at OSHA continue to be deeply saddened by the tragic
consequences of the Port Wentworth explosion. What makes this event
particularly troublesome to us is our belief that these consequences
could so easily have been minimized, if not prevented. Last week, OSHA
officials met with the victims' families to inform them of the findings
of our investigation, including the determination that Imperial Sugar's
failure to comply with existing OSHA standards directly contributed to
the explosion. Had Imperial Sugar complied with OSHA safety standards
and taken reasonable steps to mitigate a well-known hazard in this
industry, the tragedy could have been prevented.
For a dust explosion to occur, five elements must come together.
The first three are the ``fire triangle'' of fuel, heat, and oxygen.
The fuel, in this case, is combustible dust, finely divided particles
of a combustible substance that can burn rapidly--for example, sawdust
created when wood is processed or, of particular concern here, sugar
dust created through the production or transport of granulated or
powdered sugar. If the dust particles are dispersed in sufficient
quantity and concentration, ignition can cause rapid combustion known
as a deflagration. If the event is confined by an enclosure such as a
building, room, vessel, or process equipment, the resulting pressure
rise may cause an explosion. These five factors (fuel, heat, oxygen,
dispersion, and confinement) are known as the elements of the ``Dust
Explosion Pentagon.'' If even one element of the pentagon is missing,
an explosion will not occur.
Due to poor housekeeping practices, an initial explosion may
dislodge into the air the dust that is accumulated on the floors,
beams, and other areas of a workplace. This dispersed dust, if ignited,
may cause one or more secondary explosions. These secondary dust
explosions can often be far more destructive than the primary explosion
because of the larger and more diffuse dust clouds created by the
successive explosions. In past accidents, many fatalities and serious
injuries were caused by secondary explosions.
Through the course of our investigation, we discovered large
quantities of combustible dust throughout the Port Wentworth facility,
which we determined was primarily the result of poor housekeeping
practices. Our accident investigation concluded that a spark, most
likely caused by a metal bucket striking or hitting the inside of a
metal bucket elevator shaft, ignited some of this dust, causing the
primary explosion. The initial explosion caused the accumulated dust to
become airborne. This created a series of secondary explosions through
the silos, packaging house, and other parts of the facility. The chain
reaction explosions were catastrophic with 13 employees losing their
OSHA responded immediately. The agency's field office in Savannah,
GA dispatched two safety and health compliance officers and opened its
investigation within 2 hours. Over the course of the investigation,
OSHA sent 18 personnel under the supervision of senior staff to the
site. This included one attorney from the Department of Labor's
Solicitor's Office and an expert in explosion investigations from the
National Office. OSHA retained an outside expert on combustible dust to
provide additional technical assistance.
On February 9, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives (ATF) assumed command of the accident site and a team of
investigators from the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) arrived as well.
OSHA coordinated its efforts with the ATF, the local fire marshal, and
the CSB to ensure the investigation was conducted in a safe and
efficient manner. OSHA helped to establish a clear understanding of
roles, responsibilities, and expectations among the various local and
national agencies by negotiating an agreement with all parties, which
helped to ensure that evidence at the site was preserved for the
investigation. The coordination also ensured that OSHA compliance
officers were able to conduct a thorough inspection.
OSHA's response and investigation of the Imperial Sugar refinery
explosion was successful for two primary reasons. First, despite
hazardous conditions caused by the fires and extreme heat that
continued for days after the explosion, there were no injuries or
fatalities during the emergency response and subsequent investigation.
Second, the agency was able to gather evidence showing the existence of
workplace hazards prior to the explosion, many of which were either
involved in the incident, or posed risks of further explosions at the
worksite. As a result of its inspection of Port Wentworth, OSHA issued
citations alleging 69 willful and 51 serious violations at that
In the course of our investigation, we found that the management of
Imperial Sugar was aware that there were hazards caused by combustible
dust at its facilities, and knew that it had not been effectively
managing dust accumulations for a number of years. Imperial Sugar
demonstrated indifference to the serious problem by not implementing
corrective measures to remove accumulations of sugar dust from the
operating areas and not controlling potential ignition sources.
Evidence gathered at the site also disclosed dust collection system
inadequacies. Inadequate dust collection systems can contribute to the
accumulation of dust and create or aggravate a combustible dust hazard.
The fatalities and injuries at the Port Wentworth sugar refinery
probably could have been prevented, had Imperial Sugar complied with
existing OSHA standards on housekeeping and other OSHA requirements.
This finding is consistent with the results of other combustible dust
accident investigations, in which we have found that if employers had
complied with applicable standards, they would have mitigated these
hazards and prevented the explosions. Imperial Sugar was aware that its
facilities had combustible dust hazards. It failed, however, to take
the necessary steps to abate these hazards. Because Imperial did not
control and eliminate the combustible dust hazards, the conditions
existed to support the catastrophic explosion that occurred on February
7. This evidence, plus the numerous violations documented during
inspections of the Port Wentworth and Gramercy facilities led me to
authorize the maximum penalties permitted by law through issuance of
instance-by-instance citations. OSHA issues an instance-by-instance
citation only after a thorough and careful analysis of the evidence
shows that an employer's willful violations of OSHA requirements were
committed in an especially egregious manner.
Imperial Sugar's conduct clearly met those criteria, and the Port
Wentworth investigation resulted in proposed penalties of more than $5
million in citations alleging 69 willful citations, 61 of which were
instance-by-instance violations of OSHA standards directly related to
reducing the risk of combustible dust explosions; that is, the failure
to clean up combustible dust and the use of electrical equipment and
gasoline and other fuel powered trucks that were not safe to use in
combustible dust areas. OSHA also issued citations alleging 51 serious
On March 7, as the investigation into the accident unfolded, I sent
a letter to Mr. John Sheptor, CEO of Imperial Sugar, reminding him of
the seriousness of the combustible dust hazard and urging him to ensure
that Imperial Sugar take appropriate corrective actions to address any
possible combustible dust hazards at its other refinery in Gramercy,
LA. On March 14, approximately 5 weeks after the Port Wentworth
explosion and 1 week after I sent that letter, OSHA initiated a
separate inspection at the Gramercy refinery. On the first day of the
on-site inspection, OSHA's compliance officers discovered massive
quantities of combustible dust in the powder mill that also contained
potential ignition sources. When Imperial Sugar did not take immediate
action to remedy this situation, OSHA posted an imminent danger notice
that resulted in a temporary shut-down of the powder mill room.
As a result of the Gramercy inspection, OSHA issued citations
alleging 49 willful (47 instance-by-instance) and 42 serious
violations, and proposed penalties of more than $3.7 million. The cases
against both Imperial Sugar refinery sites resulted in a combined total
proposed penalty of more than $8.7 million, the third highest proposed
penalty in the agency's history. The violations cited at Port Wentworth
and Gramercy include violations of more than 60 OSHA standards. These
include standards requiring machine guarding, fall protection, adequate
exit routes, safe man lifts, and protection from exposure to lead
paint, reflecting the breadth of the safety and health problems at the
Port Wentworth sugar refinery.
In October 2007, approximately 5 months before the Imperial Sugar
accident, OSHA initiated a comprehensive National Emphasis Program
(NEP) on combustible dust. This NEP includes a strong enforcement
component focused on existing OSHA standards and statutory
requirements, as well as education and outreach components.
The NEP is based on OSHA's expertise and experience in identifying
and mitigating combustible dust hazards, as well as on a regional
Special Emphasis Program on combustible dust implemented in 2004. It
focuses on workplaces where combustible dust hazards are likely to be
found and lists the different types of materials that can generate
combustible dust. Industries covered by the NEP include agriculture,
food processing (including sugar), chemicals, textiles, forest
products, metal processing, tire and rubber manufacturing, paper
products, pharmaceuticals, recycling operations and coal handling and
processing facilities. These industries deal with a wide range of
combustible dusts with differing properties, including metal dusts such
as aluminum and magnesium, wood dust, coal and carbon dust, plastic
dusts, biosolids, certain textile materials and organic dusts such as
paper, soap, dried blood and sugar.
The NEP focuses on enforcement of OSHA standards that address
combustible dust. In particular, our inspectors look for violations of
existing standards on dust accumulations and sources of ignition, which
are basic ingredients of a combustible dust explosion. The existing
standards being targeted by the NEP include:
1910.119 Process Safety Management
1910.176 Housekeeping in storage areas
1910-156-157 Fire Protection
1910.272 Grain Handling
1910.269 Housekeeping at Coal-Handling Operations
1910.132 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
1910.178 Powered Industrial Trucks
1910.252 Welding, Cutting, and Brazing
1910.145 Warning Signs
1910.1200 Hazard Communication
1910.33-37 Means of Egress
1910.263 Bakery Equipment
1910. 265 Sawmills
1928.21 Hazard Communication for Agriculture
Among the most critical existing standards to reduce the risk of
catastrophic combustible dust explosions are OSHA's Housekeeping (29
CFR 1910.22) and Electrical (29 CFR 1910.307) standards. Housekeeping
is vital because without the accumulation of significant amounts of
combustible dust, catastrophic secondary explosions will not occur.
Compliance with the electrical standards will ensure that electrical
ignition sources are not present in environments where combustible dust
may become airborne. Simply stated, if you eliminate the accumulation
of dust as the fuel source, and control ignition sources, then you
vastly reduce the combustible dust hazard.
In March, OSHA expanded the Combustible Dust NEP to increase the
number of planned inspections. As of early July, Federal OSHA and its
State plan partners have opened 326 inspections under the NEP.
Additionally, based on what we found at the Imperial Sugar facility,
OSHA has determined that all sugar refineries (beet and sugarcane) in
the Federal jurisdiction will be inspected under the Combustible Dust
NEP. This requirement was outlined in a memorandum sent on June 6, 2008
to all Regional Administrators and State Designees. State Plan Program
participation was highly recommended as well.
While the NEP enforcement activities help ensure compliance with
OSHA's requirements at targeted sites with the greatest risk of
exposure, the education and outreach efforts are also important so that
even more employers and employees are aware of the hazards and how to
abate them effectively. OSHA's Regional and Area offices are conducting
outreach sessions to educate stakeholders on combustible dust hazards.
OSHA has also reached out to the fire safety profession, as well as to
our State plan and State consultation partners, and encouraged them to
be proactive in their efforts related to combustible dust.
In 2005, OSHA issued a Safety and Health Information Bulletin
(SHIB) titled Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating
the Effects of Fire and Explosions. This comprehensive guidance
highlights the hazards associated with combustible dusts; the work
practices and engineering controls that reduce the potential for a dust
explosion and that reduce the danger to employees if such an explosion
should occur; and the training needed to protect employees from these
hazards. Following the tragedy at Port Wentworth, OSHA proactively
mailed this SHIB to 30,000 workplaces at high risk for combustible dust
OSHA also disseminates other compliance assistance materials
related to combustible dusts, including three different eTools that are
available on the agency's Web site (www.osha.gov). These free eTools
are ``stand-alone,'' interactive, Web-based training tools on various
occupational safety and health topics. They are highly illustrated and
utilize graphical menus. OSHA has eTools on woodworking, sawmills and
shipbuilding, all of which have components that address combustible
dust hazards. OSHA has prepared an 80-page publication, also available
on the Web site, entitled Guide for Protecting Workers from Woodworking
Hazards that has a section that also addresses dust hazards. Also, in
1998, OSHA released a Hazard Information Bulletin dealing with dust
explosion hazards in the textile industry.
OSHA is providing other assistance to employers and employees to
protect against combustible dust hazards. Specifically, OSHA developed
a Web page dedicated to combustible dust hazards. The agency also
produced a safety alert on combustible dust hazards as well as created
a poster addressing how employers can abate combustible dust hazards.
OSHA is committed to training its own staff on the important issue
of combustible dust. During the last 3 years, OSHA has placed a greater
emphasis on training its compliance officers on combustible dust
hazards than at any other time in the agency's history. For example,
more than 2,400 participants have completed OSHA Training Institute
(OTI) courses that included training on combustible dust. Most
recently, in December 2007, OTI developed a comprehensive 3\1/2\ day
course on Combustible Dust Hazards and Controls. Since the inception of
this course, more than 100 Federal and State OSHA personnel have
successfully completed this training and more classes are scheduled.
This course will continue to be offered in future years. OTI also
conducted two refresher seminars on combustible dust for nearly 1,400
Federal and State Plan personnel across the Nation. Course evaluation
survey results revealed that the training sessions were successful with
only 4 percent of the respondents providing negative feedback on this
course. And, since 2000 almost 350 individuals have completed OTI's
Process Safety Management courses, which also address combustible dust
OSHA is taking, and will continue to take, strong action to address
combustible dust hazards. The agency's focused and effective
enforcement of applicable regulatory and statutory requirements
combined with education and outreach to employers and employees is
helping to protect the safety and health of working men and women who
may be exposed to combustible dust hazards.
OSHA will be taking other steps as well. For example, we believe it
will be useful to clarify how the OSHA Hazard Communication standard
applies to combustible dust and the agency has begun work on
appropriate guidance. In addition, OSHA is preparing to update its
General Industry Housekeeping provision, 1910.22. OSHA intends to amend
the Housekeeping requirement to state more explicitly what has always
been true: that the standard applies to accumulations of dust that
contribute to an explosion hazard. This clarification of language in
the Housekeeping provision will eliminate any doubt that employers are
obligated to prevent combustible dust from accumulating in their
workplaces. The agency will consider other options, including the
necessity of more comprehensive rulemaking, upon completion of the NEP
inspections and evaluation of the data collected.
Make no mistake, however, that the tragedy at Port Wentworth was
the result of willful violations of existing standards and a blatant
disregard for safety, and would not have been prevented by the
existence of another standard.
In the nearly 40 years of OSHA's existence, the agency has found
that most employers make a good faith effort to comply with our safety
and health standards. Most employers take their responsibilities under
the OSH Act--which clearly places primary responsibility for workplace
health and safety on employers--seriously. Imperial Sugar was a clear
exception to this. The management of the company was well aware of the
hazard of combustible dust, yet they did not take the necessary steps
to abate the hazard and protect their employees. When employers take
their responsibility to comply with OSHA standards seriously, they
ensure that their workers are protected from hazards in the workplace.
However, when an employer does not follow the basic requirements of the
OSH Act or existing OSHA safety and health standards, the results can
be tragic. I call on all employers--especially those who know their
workplaces could produce combustible dust--to take the necessary steps
to ensure that the tragedy at Imperial Sugar not be repeated.
Thank you Madam Chairwoman. I would be happy to answer any
Senator Murray. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF JOHN S. BRESLAND, CHAIRMAN, CEO OF U.S. CHEMICAL
SAFETY AND HAZARD INVESTIGATION BOARD, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Bresland. Thank you, Chairman Murray, Senator Isakson,
Senator Chambliss, and Senator Brown. Thank you for inviting me
to testify about the CSB's investigation of the Imperial Sugar
I have visited the Imperial Sugar refinery and witnessed
firsthand the devastation there. The destruction was the most
severe of any chemical accident I have seen in my 6 years with
the Chemical Safety Board. Our hearts go out to the victims and
to their families. This is a photograph of the refinery taken
after the explosion.
Madam Chairwoman, this accident was preventable.
Combustible dust is an insidious workplace hazard when it
accumulates on surfaces, especially elevated surfaces. A wide
range of common combustible materials can explode in finely
powdered form, including wood, coal, flour, sugar, metals,
plastics, and many chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
At Imperial Sugar, a catastrophic explosion resulted from
massive accumulations of combustible dust on surfaces
throughout the packaging plant. These are some photographs
taken of the area in the packaging plant. My written testimony
details what we have learned to date about this accident, but
let me summarize a few key points.
The photographs on the easel were taken in September and
October 2006 at different locations inside the sugar packaging
building at Imperial's Savannah refinery. They confirm the
existence of substantial dust accumulations on various ducts,
motors, switch boxes, and processing equipment. These
accumulations, ranging in depth from an inch or two up to
several feet, far exceed the NFPA recommended limit of \1/32\
of an inch.
Witnesses told the CSB that large accumulations of dust
were present until the day of the explosion. According to an
employee near the powder, milled sugar accumulated on the floor
to a mid-leg height. We were told to that airborne sugar in
this room made it difficult for workers to see each other. We
obtained documents indicating that certain parts of Imperial's
milling process were releasing tens of thousands of pounds of
sugar per month into the work area.
Based on our evidence, Imperial did not have a written dust
control program or a program for using safe dust removal
methods, and the company lacked a formal training program to
educate its workers about combustible dust hazards. I believe
these findings are further evidence of the need for a
comprehensive regulatory standard for combustible dust.
Since the CSB was established in 1998, three of the four
deadliest accidents that we have investigated have been
combustible dust explosions. In November 2006, as you
mentioned, the CSB completed a thorough study on combustible
dust. The board called for a comprehensive OSHA regulatory
standard to prevent dust explosions in general industry,
improved training of OSHA inspectors to recognize dust hazards,
and improvements to material safety data sheets to better
communicate dust hazards to workers.
The CSB based its recommendations in part on the success of
OSHA's 1987 grain dust standard, which has cut deaths and
injuries from grain dust explosions and fires by 60 percent.
This standard requires worker training, rigorous housekeeping,
and limits grain dust accumulations to \1/8\ of an inch.
The NFPA has produced highly respected consensus standards
about how best to prevent and mitigate combustible dust
explosions. OSHA has recognized the importance of NFPA
standards, and it references them numerous times in the
National Emphasis Program for dust, a program which the CSB
However, without a comprehensive standard for combustible
dust, it is difficult for businesses to know which specific
NFPA provisions or other requirements they may be subjected to.
A company that experiences a major dust explosion can expect to
receive a fine from OSHA, as Imperial has. But absent a
standard, thousands of other companies that may be at risk do
not benefit from clear instructions about what kinds of dust
are the most hazardous and what training and controls should be
put in place.
After witnessing the terrible human and physical toll from
the Imperial explosion, I believe the urgency of a new
combustible dust standard is greater than ever. A new standard,
combined with enforcement and education, will save workers'
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bresland follows:]
Prepared Statement of John S. Bresland
Thank you, Chairman Murray, Senator Isakson, and distinguished
members of the committee. I am John S. Bresland, Chairman of the U.S.
Chemical Safety Board (CSB).
The CSB is an independent Federal agency that investigates and
determines the causes of major chemical accidents, conducts studies,
and develops safety recommendations and outreach materials to prevent
My testimony today is on my own behalf, and not necessarily for the
Board as a whole.
I commend you for convening today's hearing on the issue of
combustible dust hazards and the explosion at Imperial Sugar on
February 7, 2008.
Like Senator Isakson, Senator Chambliss, and Secretary Foulke, I
traveled to Port Wentworth and witnessed first-hand the tremendous
devastation at the Imperial Sugar refinery (Figure 1).
dust explosions affect many u.s. industries
Combustible dust can be a catastrophic explosion hazard at American
workplaces. Since the CSB was established in 1998, three out of the
four deadliest accidents we have investigated were determined to be
combustible dust explosions.
Madam Chairman, such accidents--and the tremendous suffering they
cause--do not need to happen.
In addition to the 13 workers who died from the explosion and fire
at Imperial, six workers were killed in a polyethylene dust explosion
at West Pharmaceutical Services in Kinston, NC, and seven were killed
in a resin dust explosion at CTA Acoustics in Corbin, KY. Both the
latter facilities--representing two major employers in two small
American towns--were devastated and had to be demolished.
The CSB determined that both the West and CTA explosions could have
been prevented if the companies had followed National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA) recommendations for controlling dust hazards.
However, neither company adequately implemented these standards.
Although State OSHA personnel had inspected both plants, the dust
hazards had never been identified or cited during those inspections.
In November 2006, the CSB completed a comprehensive study on the
issue of combustible dust. We found that combustible dust explosions
have been a recurrent cause of disasters at U.S. industrial facilities.
Our study identified 281 dust fires and explosions that occurred at
U.S. businesses between 1980 and 2005--not including primary grain
handling or underground coal dust explosions. These fires and
explosions resulted in 119 deaths and 718 injuries.
Dust explosions afflict many industries, including food products,
plastics, automotive parts, drugs, chemicals, and electric utilities. A
wide range of common combustible materials can explode in finely
powdered form, including coal, wood, flour, sugar, and many chemicals,
plastics, and metals. Many of these basic materials and chemicals are
essential to commerce, and they can be handled safely with appropriate
precautions. Sophisticated chemical and pharmaceutical companies have
handled similar combustible powders safely for decades.
Even a material that is difficult to ignite in bulk form--like a
block of solid wood or metal--can become a powerful explosive fuel when
ground into a fine powder, dispersed in air, and exposed to an ignition
source. Exactly such conditions can occur in factories where fine
combustible dust has accumulated on horizontal surfaces--particularly
on elevated surfaces that are difficult to reach and not frequently
cleaned or even thought about.
Some minor event, such as a small fire, an unsafe cleaning
operation, or a dust explosion inside equipment (called a primary dust
explosion) may be all it takes to suddenly disperse the accumulated
dust. This creates a dense, explosive atmosphere inside the confines of
a plant, and if an ignition source is present, the stage is set for
disaster. The suddenly dislodged dust can fuel a powerful ``secondary''
dust explosion that cascades rapidly through even a large factory. It
is these secondary dust explosions that are generally responsible for
multi-fatality accidents and huge property losses.
82 new dust explosions since january 2006
When my CSB colleague William Wright appeared before the House
Education and Labor Committee in March 2008, he testified that in the 2
years since the CSB compiled the data for the combustible dust study,
media reports indicated the occurrence of approximately 67 additional
dust fires and explosions.
Today, just 4 months later, that number has already grown to a
total of 82. Dust explosions and fires that are significant enough to
be reported in the media are now occurring at the rate of almost one a
week at American businesses.
The CSB investigation found that good engineering and safety
practices to prevent dust explosions have existed for decades. Current
good practices are contained in National Fire Protection Association
(NFPA) standards, such as NFPA 654, NFPA 484, NFPA 61, and NFPA 499.
Some State and local governments have adopted some or all of these
NFPA standards as part of their fire codes, but many have not. Our
study also found that enforcement of these codes at industrial
facilities is, at best, uneven.
Code enforcement agencies heavily emphasize the inspection of high
occupancy establishments such as hotels, schools, and nursing homes--
not industrial facilities. These agencies often lack the training or
staffing to inspect industrial sites or enforce technical standards for
combustible dust. Because hundreds of different State and local
jurisdictions are involved in code enforcement across the country,
there is no straightforward way to improve this system.
csb recommended a new, comprehensive osha standard for combustible dust
In November 2006 the CSB study on combustible dust made five
specific safety recommendations to OSHA. The Board called for a
comprehensive regulatory standard for dust explosions in general
industry, improved training of OSHA inspectors to recognize dust
hazards, and better communication of dust hazards to workers using
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). The CSB also asked OSHA to alert
the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe of the need to amend
the Globally Harmonized System to address combustible dust hazards.
The CSB recommended that, while a new standard was being developed,
OSHA establish a national emphasis program on combustible dust hazards
to better enforce existing standards--which OSHA began in 2007 and is
continuing to implement.
A year and 3 months after the completion of the CSB dust study, the
Imperial disaster occurred, and it caused even more death and
destruction than any of the previous dust explosions we had studied. In
fact, the 13 fatalities from the Imperial Sugar explosion place this
accident among the very worst industrial disasters of any kind in the
United States over the past two decades.
dust explosions cause severe burn injuries
In addition to the deaths and property damage, combustible dust
explosions frequently cause massive burn injuries that forever scar
even those who survive. The West and CTA dust explosions injured a
total of 75 people, including some who were left severely disabled and
At Imperial Sugar, there were 101 employees and contractors present
on the evening of February 7, 2008. The explosion and fire left eight
dead at the scene, and burned another five so severely that they later
died in the hospital. In addition, a total of 39 people were injured,
including 23 who were burned. Of these 23 burn victims, 15 had serious
and life-threatening injuries requiring hospitalization at the Joseph
M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, more than 100 miles from Port
Wentworth. Today, more than 5 months later, three burn victims remain
hospitalized in the Still Burn Center. As requested by the committee,
additional information on the number and severity of the injuries is
included in Table 1.
Table 1. Information on Fatal/Nonfatal Injuries From the Explosion and Fire at the Imperial Sugar Facility in
Location at Time
Victim Employer of Incident Status/Condition Nature of Injury
1............................... Imperial Sugar.... Unknown........... Burn center-- Thermal burns (45
2............................... Stokes Contracting Unknown........... Burn center-- Thermal burns (85
3............................... Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor south Burn center--good. Thermal burns (45
4............................... Imperial Sugar.... 1st floor south Deceased at burn Thermal burns (60
packaging. center. percent)
5............................... Imperial Sugar.... 1st floor south Deceased at burn Thermal burns (90
packaging. center. percent)
6............................... Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor south Deceased at burn Thermal burns (85
packaging. center. percent)
7............................... Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Deceased at burn Thermal burns (20
packaging. center. percent)
8............................... Kerby Contracting. Palletizing....... Deceased at burn Thermal burns (85
9............................... Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor Bosch... Deceased at Thermal burns
10.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor Bosch... Deceased at Thermal burns
11.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor Bosch... Deceased at Thermal burns
12.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor break Deceased at Thermal burns
13.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor break Deceased at Thermal burns
14.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Deceased at Thermal burns
15.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 4th floor south Deceased at Thermal burns
16.............................. Stokes Contracting 4th floor south Deceased at Thermal burns
17.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 1st floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (40
packaging. center. percent)
18.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 1st floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (20
packaging. center. percent)
19.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (25
packaging. center. percent)
20.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (51
packaging. center. percent)
21.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (24
packaging. center. percent)
22.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns
packaging. center. (19.5 percent)
23.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (24
packaging. center. percent)
24.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (20
packaging. center. percent)
25.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (12
packaging. center. percent)
26.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (18
packaging. center. percent)
27.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Released from burn Thermal burns (12
packaging. center. percent)
28.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Electrical and Released from burn Thermal burns (1
instrumentation center. percent),
29.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor break Treated/released.. Fracture
30.............................. Stokes Contracting 2nd floor lab..... Treated/released.. Laceration,
31.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor lab..... Treated/released.. Contusions, Smoke
32.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor lab..... Treated/released.. Contusions
33.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 2nd floor south Treated/released.. Thermal burns,
packaging. Contusions, Smoke
34.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 3rd floor south Treated/released.. Contusions, Smoke
35.............................. Imperial Sugar.... 4th floor south Treated/released.. Thermal burns
36.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Bulk sugar........ Treated/released.. Contusions
37.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Electrical and Treated/released.. Contusions
38.............................. Kerby Contracting. Handstack--manual Treated/released.. Thermal burns,
pallet loading. Hearing loss
39.............................. Kerby Contracting. Handstack--manual Treated/released.. Contusions,
pallet loading. Hearing loss
40.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Liquid sugar...... Treated/released.. Contusions
41.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Palletizing....... Treated/released.. Contusions
42.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Palletizing....... Treated/released.. Thermal burns
43.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Palletizing....... Treated/released.. Hearing loss
44.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Palletizing....... Treated/released.. Contusions
45.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Palletizing....... Treated/released.. Thermal burns
46.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Raw sugar......... Treated/released.. Contusions
47.............................. Imperial Sugar.... Unknown........... Treated/released.. Contusions
48.............................. Imperial Sugar.... White sugar stand. Treated/released.. Thermal burns,
49.............................. Imperial Sugar.... White sugar stand. Treated/released.. Contusions
csb's preliminary findings about the explosion at imperial sugar
The catastrophic explosion at Imperial Sugar in February resulted
from massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the
packaging plant at the refinery.
The CSB investigation to determine the causes of the accident at
Imperial Sugar is ongoing. Our investigative team arrived in Savannah
on February 8 and conducted work at the site almost continuously
through June, and some field work still remains to be completed.
We have conducted detailed interviews with about 130 witnesses,
including operators, managers, engineering staff, maintenance and
cleaning contractors, and top executives. We have collected thousands
of photographs and documents.
Let me briefly summarize our conclusions to this point, emphasizing
that all information is preliminary and we continue to investigate.
The Imperial Sugar facility can trace its origins back to 1916.
This was a large plant with hundreds of employees. Most of the
employees we interviewed had worked at the site for the past 10 to 30
years. On the day of the explosion, it was the second largest sugar
refinery in the United States.
Raw sugar arrived by ship and was stored in a warehouse. In the
refinery section of the facility, the raw sugar was dissolved in water
and purified by filtration and crystallization. The purified sugar
crystals were then stored in three huge silos, which were surrounded by
a large, four-story packaging plant. Within this plant, which was
several hundred feet long, workers operated machinery that not only
bagged and boxed sugar but also pulverized it in hammer mills to make
Like most catastrophic dust explosions, what happened at Imperial
was a multi-stage event. At 7:15 p.m. on the evening of February 7,
there was a primary explosion in the packaging plant, followed 3 to 5
seconds later by a much larger secondary dust explosion. The explosion
blew through the roof of the building and rose high into sky; the
moment of the blast was captured in images from a surveillance camera
almost 2 miles from the refinery (Figure 2).
There were about a hundred employees at the facility that evening.
As the secondary explosion occurred, witnesses inside the packaging
plant saw a fireball rolling overhead. Some were engulfed in fire and
flaming debris; others were burned by a sudden burst of scorching hot
Thereafter, a large fire ensued and grew, fueled by sugar and
combustible packaging materials. At least one victim became trapped and
could not be rescued. He died in the advancing fire. Although the
building had a sprinkler system, its water piping was immediately
disabled by the explosion.
Had the accident occurred a few hours earlier during the day shift,
about 300 people would have been present at the plant, and the number
of deaths and injuries could have been far higher.
The nature of the primary explosion has not been conclusively
determined. We do know that an explosion likely occurred underneath the
sugar silos. Beneath the silos, there was a long, steel-enclosed sugar
conveyor system, which carried granulated sugar from the silos to the
packaging plant. This sugar could include fine combustible particles
generated in processing and handling.
The explosion under the silos was strong enough to blow some of the
steel enclosure panels of the conveyor system into the packaging
building. To date, the immediate area of this explosion has remained
largely inaccessible to investigators, and other possible primary
explosions have not been ruled out.
accumulated sugar in packaging plant fueled the explosion
Inside the four-story packaging building, the secondary dust
explosion was fueled by widespread accumulations of combustible sugar
dust. It was this secondary dust explosion that caused the major loss
of life at Imperial. Secondary dust explosions like this do not occur
if dust has been prevented from accumulating on surfaces.
National Fire Protection Association guidance documents, such as
NFPA 654, indicate that accumulations of combustible dust of \1/32\ of
an inch--covering just 5 percent) of the available surface area--should
be considered hazardous due to the possibility of a secondary dust
Multiple witnesses told CSB investigators of large accumulations of
sugar at many locations throughout the packaging plant. Accumulations
of dust were longstanding and were present until the day of the
explosion, according to these witnesses. Near the powder mills,
powdered sugar accumulated on the floor to a ``mid-leg'' height,
according to a worker there. Airborne sugar in this room made it
difficult for workers to see each other, we were told. On elevated
surfaces, witnesses described seeing thick build-ups of sugar of around
pre-explosion photographs from 2006 show conditions inside plant
The CSB obtained pre-explosion photographs taken at the Imperial
facility by a third-party in September and October 2006. These
photographs, which show different locations inside the packaging
building, confirm the existence of substantial dust accumulations on
various walls, pipes, ducts, motors, switch boxes, and pieces of
processing equipment. The pictures show an inch or even more of
accumulated sugar on elevated surfaces. On several production floors,
the photographs show a foot or more of accumulated sugar (Figure 3).
A July 2007 Imperial Sugar incident investigation report of a
worker's skin injury stated that ``Powder sugar [sic] was piled up on
the floor below the mill approximately 18 inches high. When he stepped
into the sugar it came up to around his knee.'' This internal report
included photographs showing the accumulations of sugar, and stated
that ``The sugar on the floor in the Powder Mill Room is and has been a
constant problem.'' Internal Imperial e-mail correspondence from
December 2007 reported: ``We clean up around 15,000 lbs weekly out of
the mill room.'' And an internal Spill Control Team report dated
December 5, 2007, describes conditions in the Powder Mill Room as
follows: ``The 2 lb elevator in back of the room blows powder
everywhere . . . Approximate losses in November = 34,000 lbs.''
After being shown the 2006 photographs, Imperial Sugar
representatives asserted that the facility was clean immediately before
the February 2008 explosion. However, the levels of sugar accumulation
shown in the 2006 photographs are consistent with the July 2007
incident report as well as levels Imperial operators and contractors
told the CSB existed at the time of the 2008 dust explosion. In
addition, we are not aware of any significant change in Imperial's
housekeeping or maintenance practices which would account for a
dramatic decrease in the amount of sugar accumulating on surfaces due
to ongoing releases from operating equipment.
imperial lacked formal dust training, cleaning programs
Imperial Sugar reported that its personnel conducted a weekly
cleaning of the plant to collect and reprocess spilled sugar. In part,
this cleaning was necessary to prevent employees from slipping and
injuring themselves on accumulated sugar. However, Imperial Sugar did
not have a written cleaning procedure or checklist and therefore could
not assure the thoroughness of this program. Various witnesses told the
CSB that the cleaning focused on accessible working surfaces and not on
elevated surfaces. Interviewees also said the cleaning sometimes did
not occur due to production needs. In addition, machines were commonly
blown off with air, which contributed to the spread of sugar onto other
horizontal and elevated surfaces.
Accumulations of dust on elevated surfaces are particularly
hazardous, since they usually consist of the finest, most explosive
material, are difficult to clean, and are prone to be dislodged into
the atmosphere in the event of a fire or a primary explosion.
We asked Imperial Sugar for all policies and procedures related to
dust control, records of weekly cleaning activities, and documentation
of training on dust hazards, but the company was unable to produce any
documents that were responsive to these requests. Based on the
available evidence, Imperial did not have a written dust control
program, a specific target level for the maximum dust accumulation, or
a program for using safe dust cleaning methods, and the company did not
impose combustible dust safety requirements on cleaning contractors.
And the company produced no documentary evidence of any formal training
program for educating its workers about combustible dust hazards.
Much of the electrical equipment in the sugar packaging plant was
not dust-tight and therefore was not appropriate for use in plant areas
where combustible dust could form an explosive atmosphere. Only a small
portion of the building--the powder mill motor control room--was
enclosed to prevent dust intrusion.
Finally, the packaging building on the south side of the silos was
more than a half-century old, and the equipment did not incorporate
effective design features to prevent the spread and accumulation of
sugar dust. The building walls were of masonry construction and lacked
provisions to safely vent the forces of an explosion. The 2008 dust
explosion caused massive structural damage to the packaging building,
which increased the human toll from the accident, as concrete floors
heaved, brick walls blew out or collapsed, and windows flew hundreds of
operators not informed of the risks from combustible dust
Among operations-level personnel, we found no significant awareness
or training about the hazards of catastrophic dust explosions. In
interviews, some management-level personnel described varying but
limited levels of familiarity with dust explosion hazards. Although we
have found no indication that this particular facility had previously
experienced a major explosion, 10 days prior to the February 7 disaster
there was a small explosion inside a dust collector on the roof of the
Employees reported another near-miss incident when a small fire
erupted in the packaging building a few weeks before the February
explosion. Accumulated sugar near a packaging machine was apparently
ignited by an overheated motor or conveyor bearing.
nfpa recommendations likely would have prevented major explosion
Madam Chairman, the standards developed by the National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) represent the consensus of industry's own
experts about how best to prevent and mitigate combustible dust
explosions. However, Imperial Sugar did not have a program to follow
relevant NFPA recommendations for preventing dust explosions--including
NFPA 61, NFPA 654, and NFPA 499.
The principal standard, NFPA 654, was first developed between 1943
and 1945, and has since been updated and improved a number of times.
NFPA 654 describes a number of important safety practices and
principles, which if diligently followed, would have made the
catastrophic dust explosion at Imperial unlikely to occur. For example,
NFPA 654 recommends that dust-producing activities such as powder
milling be isolated from other operations--and that barriers be
installed to prevent the migration and accumulation of dust.
Equipment should be designed and maintained to minimize the release
of dust. New construction should be designed to facilitate cleaning, by
minimizing horizontal surfaces where dust can collect and, wherever
feasible, sealing areas that are inaccessible to cleaning. The standard
also calls for regular cleaning--including overhead ducts, pipes, and
beams--using safe cleaning methods such as vacuuming with appropriate
equipment. Housekeeping should be comprehensive to control hazardous
dust accumulations wherever they might occur, not just on walking and
The NFPA suggests immediate cleaning and removal of any dust
accumulation over \1/32\ of an inch, about the thickness of a
paperclip. More than \1/32\ " of dust covering 5 percent) of the room
area is enough to create an explosive atmosphere if the dust becomes
The NFPA standard calls for designing process equipment to ensure
that dust explosions inside the equipment vent to safe locations away
from personnel, and not into work areas where life-threatening
secondary explosions could occur. It also calls for controlling
activities and equipment that may cause ignition and requires that
electrical equipment be suitable for dust-containing atmospheres. And
buildings should be designed to be evacuated quickly in an emergency.
Finally, the NFPA standard calls for a basic safety management
system at facilities that handle combustible powders. This system is
similar to what thousands of oil and chemical facilities already follow
under the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. The NFPA
recommends that facilities with dust explosion hazards develop worker
training, hazard analysis, and change management programs, and conduct
regular inspections and maintenance.
Most of the fatalities and serious injuries from industrial dust
explosions occur due to secondary explosions, which result from dust
accumulations in work areas. These explosions--including the one at
Imperial Sugar--can be prevented by adherence to the principles
contained in the NFPA standards. Our investigation to date reveals
numerous areas where Imperial was unfamiliar with and did not implement
OSHA has recognized the importance of NFPA's dust standards and
they are referenced numerous times in the National Emphasis Program
that OSHA began last year and re-issued earlier this year. We support
the NEP, and I commend Secretary Foulke for its establishment. The
creation of an NEP would appear to satisfy one of the CSB's safety
recommendations from 2006.
imperial disaster emphasizes need for a comprehensive osha standard
A comprehensive OSHA dust standard is necessary to get businesses,
government inspectors, and insurers to identify dust hazards and take
appropriate actions to control them. Existing standards do not clearly
identify what kinds of dust are hazardous and only address limited
aspects of how to control those hazards.
OSHA's existing Walking-Working Surfaces standard (29 CFR
1910.22)--sometimes loosely referred to as ``the housekeeping
standard''--requires that ``all places of employment be kept clean and
orderly and in a sanitary condition.'' Its primary purpose is to
protect individual workers from slips, trips, and falls from water,
debris, or sharp objects. It does not specifically address fire or
explosion hazards, does not mention combustible dust, and does not
impose any specific enforceable limitations, engineering controls,
procedures, cleaning methods, or training requirements.
There are also limitations in seeking to apply existing NFPA
standards, as written, under the OSHA general duty clause. NFPA 654
does not include specific lists or criteria for what combustible
powders are covered (although two related standards, NFPA 61 and NFPA
499, clearly identify sugar dust as an explosion hazard). NFPA 654 also
contains a number of general provisions that may be subject to
differing interpretations. For example, the standard says that
decisions about applying safety recommendations retroactively to
existing buildings must be made on a case-by-case basis to achieve an
``acceptable degree of protection''--a term that is difficult to
Instead of the present patchwork of miscellaneous Federal, State,
and local requirements, the Chemical Safety Board has recommended that
OSHA develop a single, comprehensive, uniform standard--based on the
sound, consensus-based technical principles and practices that are
embodied in NFPA standards. Ambiguities in the NFPA standards need to
be resolved in clear, enforceable regulations developed by a thorough,
public rulemaking process.
The House of Representatives took a similar approach in H.R. 5522,
the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act
of 2008, which mandates an OSHA standard that is based on NFPA
standards, but considers input from all parties.
osha grain dust standard has cut explosion deaths by 60 percent
Advocates of a new OSHA standard are encouraged by the success of
the OSHA grain dust standard, 29 CFR 1910.272. In the 1970s and 1980s,
the U.S. experienced a series of grain dust explosions that caused a
number of deaths. OSHA responded in 1987 by issuing a comprehensive
grain dust standard. This standard requires preventive maintenance,
worker training, safe operating procedures, emergency planning, and
formal dust-cleaning programs. In particular, grain-handling facilities
(but not other industries) must adopt written cleaning schedules,
identify priority housekeeping areas where combustible dusts are most
likely to be present, immediately remove any dust accumulations over an
eighth of an inch, and avoid using compressed air for cleaning.
According to OSHA's own review in 2003, this standard has cut
deaths and injuries from grain dust explosions and fires by 60 percent.
And as noted in the CSB study, the grain industry itself now credits
the standard with helping to make the design of grain handling
Developing a new combustible dust standard will be a complex
undertaking, and OSHA will face technical challenges along the way. A
realistic timetable will need to be developed. But the time to start
this important work is now. We should not await another tragedy on the
scale of what we just witnessed in February before starting the
In November 2006, when the combustible dust study and
recommendations were before the Chemical Safety Board for approval, I
had reservations about recommending a new OSHA dust standard for
general industry. At that time, I hoped that the terrible dust
explosions in 2003 would prove to be an anomaly, and that heightened
awareness and vigilance by industry would make a new Federal regulation
new osha standard, education, and enforcement will prevent future
Although I continue to believe that education and awareness are
very important components, the tragic circumstances of the Imperial
Sugar explosion have now convinced me that a comprehensive Federal
standard should be enacted to help prevent future disasters.
Of course, a standard by itself will not prevent all accidents.
Therefore, we need a new standard, an emphasis program, and an
awareness campaign to tackle this problem. Without all three elements--
strong regulations, education, and enforcement--workers will continue
to be put at risk.
A combustible dust standard will save workers' lives. It will save
many others from devastating burn injuries.
After witnessing the terrible human and physical toll from the
Imperial explosion, I believe the time for further debate should draw
to a close. It is time for all interested parties--industry, labor, and
government--to move forward toward a standard that will protect
workers, businesses, and communities well into the future.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Senator Murray. Thank you very much to both of you.
Before we move to questions, Senator Brown joined us a few
minutes late and wanted to give a quick opening statement
before we go to the questions.
Senator Brown. Not necessary. I will wait for the
Senator Murray. OK, very good.
Senator Brown. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Senator Murray. All right. Thank you very much to both of
you for being here and for your testimony. Let me ask this
question to both of you.
I understand now that OSHA has issued citations proposing
penalties of over $8.7 million in safety violations to Imperial
Sugar, which I understand is the third-largest fine in the
history of the agency. Those citations covered 118 instances of
willful violations, a category in which OSHA can count each
instance a violation occurs, because it is measured against a
For many other citations, OSHA used a more general duty
clause that allows it to cite unsafe practices not specifically
addressed in the regulations. I would like to ask both of you
if any critical hazards or life-threatening dangers were not
included in the citations because they could not be
Mr. Foulke, I would like to ask you first.
Mr. Foulke. Not that I am aware of, Madam Chairman.
Senator Murray. Mr. Bresland, do you have any comment on
Mr. Bresland. Well, I think a general or a more specific
standard for combustible dust control would be somewhat similar
to the grain standard, and certainly one thing that would need
to be done would be an assessment of the hazards of the
There are tests that can be done on dusts that are
relatively easy and straightforward and relatively inexpensive.
They cost maybe $1,200, $1,500 to do. Once you have done that
test, you, the employer, would have an idea of the relative
danger of the dusts that you are dealing with.
Now keep in mind that not all dusts are explosive. I think
there is a general impression out there or a general lack of
awareness of the hazards of combustible dusts. If these tests
were carried out, people would have an awareness of what the
hazards are, and then an appropriate accident prevention
program would be put in place.
Senator Murray. Well, I guess my question is, if we did
have a specific standard for combustible dust, would the
results of this investigation have been different? Would the
situation with the penalties have changed any?
Mr. Foulke. I don't believe so, Madam Chairwoman. If you
would look at what we cited at Imperial Sugar, as I mentioned
in my testimony, 60 specific OSHA standards were cited against
Imperial Sugar. They were violations of 60 separate standards
that are already on the books. There were only a few, only 7
general duty clause violations that were cited at Port
Once again, what that shows--and this is the important
thing to recognize--is that Congress, when it initiated the
act, understood that there would be situations where you would
not be able to cover everything. They specifically put the
general duty clause in there, which allows us at OSHA to be
able to cite employers for other safety and health hazards.
It shows that the Imperial Sugar inspection and the
citations demonstrate clearly that the system works, that we
are citing employers, where we don't have a standard, under
5(a)(1). Yet we still have an additional 60 separate standards
that were cited. To tell you the truth, here we have where the
employer just violated 60 specific standards. I think if you
had a combustible dust standard, there would have been 61
standards that would have been violated.
Senator Murray. Well, you have said that OSHA has 17
different standards that relate to combustible dust. Many of
those standards that you point to don't even mention the word
``dust,'' and none of those standards were designed
specifically to prevent dust explosion. The housekeeping
standard only applies to places where people are working,
passageways, storage rooms, and doesn't apply to many of the
places where dust can accumulate, like sealed areas or perhaps
Wouldn't a single comprehensive standard be more effective
in getting employers, first of all, to understand the hazard
posed by accumulated dust?
Mr. Foulke. Well, we have not ruled out looking at doing a
standard, Madam Chairwoman. What we are looking at--and we have
our National Emphasis Program, and what this is providing us
with is the information. We are going out and examining a whole
series of companies that have the potential for combustible
dust. We are also looking at the types of substances that are
involved, the types of industries that are involved, the types
of processes that are involved. This is the information that we
The post that I have here, this is the post that OSHA has
put out with respect to combustible dust. Their list, some of
the substances they are dealing with, all this list is the
substances. With the grain standard, you were dealing with one
substance. As you can see from this list, we are dealing with a
lot of different substances to deal with a combustible dust
Senator Murray. Did you inspect Port Wentworth or Gramercy
facilities prior to this February 7th explosion? Did any
Mr. Foulke. Yes.
Senator Murray. It was? What kind of citations were issued
at that time?
Mr. Foulke. Well, the Port Wentworth inspection was
conducted in 2000 under a complaint inspection, and the
Senator Murray. Was there a citation at that time?
Mr. Foulke. There was no citation because this inspector
investigated where the complaint was. On complaint inspections,
we are, under law, focused on a specific area that we need to
look at. Obviously, there were no other safety and health
hazards that were observed, but the complaint that was issued
or the complaint that we received and the inspection that
followed determined that there was no evidence of a violation
based on the complaint.
Senator Murray. I am looking at these photos here. You
didn't see anything like that? Or the supervisor or the
inspector didn't see anything like this?
Mr. Foulke. I am not sure exactly where the inspection was
held. If it was a complaint inspection, it may have been held
in a different area where--like in the warehouse or something.
I am not sure of that.
Senator Murray. Well, my time is up, but I want to ask you,
in your testimony, you say that the existence of a specific
combustible dust standard would not have prevented the Imperial
Sugar explosion because Imperial Sugar had a blatant disregard
for safety. Yet now we have Imperial Sugar using the absence of
a dust standard as the key to their appeal of OSHA citations,
saying it is evidence that OSHA didn't know about the hazard of
dust and didn't put the industry on notice.
Aren't you kind of inviting that kind of defense by failing
to issue a specific dust standard?
Mr. Foulke. Well, I know that Imperial Sugar has contested
the citations. I don't know what their specific--what their
defenses are going to be. But, I will say this very clearly. We
had the things in place. There was clearly knowledge about
We put out a Safety and Health Information Bulletin on
combustible dust in 2005. We had started a special emphasis
program in our Region 3 in Philadelphia on combustible dust. We
started our National Emphasis Program. That was actually
started before this inspection went on, and I believe the
evidence shows that Imperial Sugar was aware that we were doing
We have--once again, too--you have always got to remember,
the act passed by Congress puts the responsibility of having a
safe work site on the employer. It does not say, ``OSHA, you
are now the corporate safety and health director for every
company in the United States.'' It requires the employers to
maintain a safe workplace. That is their responsibility under
Now some people like to pass the buck, to be quite frank.
When they want to try to put the blame, shift the blame away
from them and put it on somebody else. The act puts the
responsibility on the employer. We have been providing them
plenty of--we had our SHIB. We put out our hazard alert. We had
the poster. We have our Web page out there that they can go on
and get all of this information.
For any employer in the United States to say that they
don't understand that there is--they don't know anything about
combustible dust hazards, especially in the sugar industry, is
just not right. It is not true.
Senator Murray. Senator Isakson.
Senator Isakson. Thank you, Senator Murray.
Mr. Foulke, what triggers an OSHA compliance inspection?
Mr. Foulke. Senator, it can be a number of different
Senator Isakson. Tell me what they are.
Mr. Foulke. Well, one is obviously, in this particular case
involving Imperial Sugar, when you have a fatality or the
multiple hospitalization of three or more employees, then we do
an automatic inspection. We also do inspections for complaints
where an employee or a former employee or someone files a
complaint with OSHA, citing a complaint about safety and health
hazards. Then we will inspect those.
The third one is where we have program inspections, and we
have a set group of targeting things, do our site-specific
targeting on our National Emphasis Programs and local emphasis
Senator Isakson. And your statement that by the end of this
year, all refineries will be inspected as a program you put in
Mr. Foulke. Sugar.
Senator Isakson. Sugar refineries.
Mr. Foulke. Yes. Yes, we put that in place the beginning of
this year, and we intend to inspect all the sugar refineries
through our National Emphasis Program by the end of this year.
Senator Isakson. Mr. Bresland, would you give me--explain
to me the difference between combustion and explosive?
Combustible and explosive?
Mr. Bresland. That is--you mean in terms of combustible
Senator Isakson. I mean just the two terms. One is an
explosion. The other is combustible. Is there a difference in
Mr. Bresland. Combustible is a term that is normally used
with flammable liquid or combustible liquid, such as diesel,
for example. It is something that can catch fire, and it is
defined by the flash point of the particular liquid. An
explosion is something that causes an overpressure and results
in the sort of damage that you saw at the Port Wentworth
Senator Isakson. Wasn't there an explosion in Baltimore,
MD, in November 2007?
Mr. Bresland. There was an explosion at the Domino Sugar
factory in 2007.
Senator Isakson. Did you do an investigation of that?
Mr. Bresland. No, we didn't. No.
Senator Isakson. Sugar dust was the----
Mr. Bresland. From what I read in the press reports, and
they were in the press yesterday, there were fines levied on
Domino Sugar by the Maryland OSHA. I believe, as I recall, it
Senator Isakson. The reason I am asking that question is in
the testimony of Mr. Foulke, on page 4, it says,
``In the course of our investigation, we found the
management of Imperial Sugar was aware that there were
hazards caused by combustible dust at its facilities
and knew that it had not been effectively managing dust
accumulation for a number of years.''
Combustible is different from explosive. Throughout all the
reading I have done, everybody is parsing those two words. I am
just trying to get to the point of this specific reference.
Mr. Bresland. I think I understand your confusion, but I
think in the sense that we are talking about today, I would say
that combustible dusts and explosive dusts are somewhat
interchangeable as a term.
Senator Isakson. Does it take combustion to have an
Mr. Bresland. Yes, it does. Yes. If I can use as an
example, just to describe how this works, if you take a piece,
a block of wood and try to set fire to it, it is not going to
catch fire. If you take wood kindling and put a match to it, it
probably will catch fire, but relatively with some difficulty.
If you take dust, very finely divided wood dust and under the
right circumstances, it will explode.
You can go from a piece of wood, which is relatively
innocuous, to the same wood as a very finely divided material,
let us say confined inside a room like this, at a sufficient
concentration, it would explode.
Senator Isakson. I think Senator Chambliss and I come from
the pine tree capital of the United States, and we are very
familiar with sawdust explosions and combustion. That is a
It just seems to me like, in all of this, I keep reading
about how we didn't know whether something would explode or
whether it was combustible or whether it was flammable or not.
When we had all these 281 explosions in 30 years of dust
explosions that it seems like everybody ought to know that
organic dust is explosive.
Different properties have different intensities, I would
think. It seems to me like that is just almost common
knowledge. To that end, are the National Fire Protection
Association regs, by nature, are they adopted as a part of OSHA
Mr. Bresland. Are you asking----
Senator Isakson. I am asking Mr. Foulke. I am sorry.
Mr. Foulke. Oh, I am sorry.
Senator Isakson. The National Fire Protection Association
Mr. Foulke. Sir, some of our standards are--have consensus
standards that are incorporated by reference.
Senator Isakson. Are their standards as it relates to dust
a part of OSHA standards, either by incorporation?
Mr. Foulke. We have not incorporated the National Fire
Protection code standards specifically.
Senator Isakson. In that combustible dust posting that you
have, does it reference the National Fire Protection
Mr. Foulke. We do reference the National Fire Protection
code standards in a number of things, including on our Web
site, where our combustible dust Web site outlines what
standards are applicable, but also what reference materials are
Senator Isakson. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Senator Murray. Senator Brown.
Senator Brown. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Bresland, thank you for your independence and your
courage. Thank you.
Mr. Foulke, OSHA's own response to earlier combustible dust
crises in the grain industry, as Mr. Bresland pointed out,
demonstrates a dust-specific standard works. During the Reagan
administration, in 1987, after a series of deadly grain dust
explosions, OSHA issued the standard that you both mentioned on
combustible grain dust that applies mainly to grain elevators,
feed and flour mills, and certain soybean processing plants.
The standard has been extremely successful in reducing
grain dust explosions from 1987 to 2003. Over 16 years, those
explosions decreased by 43 percent, and related injuries and
fatalities dropped by some 60 percent.
I understand the Bush administration's view that voluntary
standards are the way to go. For whatever ideological reasons,
they have come to that conclusion. Why has OSHA been so slow on
the dust in sugar and metal and wood and pharmaceutical
Mr. Foulke. Well, I don't think we have been slow. I think
one of the things--clearly, our position is we are looking at
whether the data would show us that we need to do some type of
rulemaking. We are looking at that. First of all, I think if
you see the Imperial Sugar, the citations there show that we
have a lot of standards that are applicable to combustible dust
hazards, and clearly, we cited Imperial Sugar for that.
The grain standard, I can't deny that it hasn't been
successful, but you have to also recognize the grain standard
does not just deal with explosives. It also deals with
engulfments, and that is one thing--that is part of where the
reduction in fatalities has occurred. Also if you look prior to
the enactment of the grain standard, which took 8 years to
enact, there was already a steady decline in the number of
explosions and the number of fatalities.
Once again, and it kind of was what you pointed out there
in your question, grain standard deals with one element, grain.
A comprehensive combustible dust standard would have to deal
with all those specific items and also dealing with specific
industries and specific processes. This is not--this is a
I know there has been the discussion that we should go and
adopt the National Fire Protection code as our--as a basis. If
you want to look at the National Fire Protection code, it has
five different combustible dust standards. It is not one. These
are the five here.
Each one of these also references, mandatory references--
like 654 is probably the main, general combustible dust
standard. It references 40 others. If you take all the
mandatory references in the National Fire Protection code,
combustible dust standards, this is what you get right here.
In developing a comprehensive standard, first of all, even
the National Fire Protection Code has not set a specific one
standard, nor do they have a specific standard for dust. Each
one of these has its own different discussion of dust. Plus, it
incorporates all these other items. In developing a standard,
we are going to have to see how all this integrates together
and how it impacts on our standard.
Senator Brown. Yes, I would like to accept your answer, but
it has been 16 years that we have seen the grain standard. I
have heard the differences, and I accept those, mostly. It has
been 2 years since the Chemical Safety Board issued the study
that identified hundreds of combustible dust incidents over the
past three decades that resulted in more than 100 worker
deaths. They found no rules exist to control the risk of dust
explosion. They recommended that OSHA move on it.
I heard your comments that it is ultimately the employer
who is responsible. What that says to workers in this country
is you are on your own because the Government is not on your
side. We are just hoping employers do it. We believe that
employers should have a voluntary standard. I mean, that has
really been the message out of OSHA for the last half dozen
years or so.
It sort of begs the issue that the worker is on his own in
this. I look at what has happened in Marion, OH, in my State,
and the popcorn workers at a company in Marion. The danger is
called ``popcorn lung'' from diacetyl exposure.
There was a petition for a standard to regulate diacetyl.
OSHA denied it. It was supported by 42 of the country's leading
occupational safety and health scientists and experts. I mean,
we have just seen too much of this from OSHA. Listen to people
like Mr. Bresland and listen to the representatives of these
workers, whether they are union or nonunion, listen to people
on this committee that OSHA needs to get more serious about
siding with the worker, not doing the company's bidding so
Mr. Foulke. Well, I have to disagree with your premise,
though, that, first of all, there is no such thing as a
voluntary standard. OSHA has on the books numerous safety and
health standards that cover a whole variety of things.
I think you can look at the fact that looking at the
Imperial Sugar citations, this clearly demonstrates $8.7
million in penalties, 61 different specific standards, on-the-
book standards cited, 218 different violations. It wouldn't
have mattered if we had another combustible dust standard. This
accident would have happened. I personally believe that they
would not have complied with a combustible dust standard.
The other question you brought up about diacetyl. First of
all, I will mention we are working on a diacetyl standard.
Second, we did deny the emergency temporary standard for
diacetyl, and the reason was that there are two--the courts
require two criteria for an emergency temporary standard. There
has to be a grave danger, and you have to be able to show that
there is a necessity for the emergency standard.
Through our history, we have issued nine emergency
temporary standards. Of those, six were challenged in court,
and five were vacated by the court. The last time we issued an
emergency temporary standard was in 1983 for asbestos, and that
was vacated by the court. The burden on an emergency temporary
standard is extremely high for us.
Senator Brown. I can expect that OSHA, by what date, will
come up with a diacetyl standard for the popcorn workers?
Mr. Foulke. We are working on that. We have moved forward.
We are in the process of the--we have briefed the SBRFA panel.
We are getting ready to do the SBRFA panel. We are moving
forward with it. Once the SBRFA panel is completed, then we
will have a notice of proposed rulemaking.
Senator Brown. That is roughly--timetable? When would that
Mr. Foulke. I would suspect sometime the end of next year
Senator Brown. End of 2009?
Mr. Foulke. Right.
Senator Brown. Thank you.
Senator Murray. Senator Chambliss.
Senator Chambliss. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you for your service on this. Obviously,
from the testimony of both of you, combustible dust exists in
any number of manufacturing facilities, a lot of which are
listed on your chart here, Mr. Foulke. Is it the position of
OSHA, as well as the Chemical Safety Board, that you seek to
eliminate dust in these manufacturing operations, or should
manufacturers seek to control their operations with that dust?
Mr. Bresland. Let me respond to that. I think everybody
should be aware that in the pharmaceutical industry and in the
chemical industry in particular, dust and particulates are part
of the process. When you buy a pharmaceutical tablet, it is
originally a dust, and it possibly could have been a
combustible dust. Those industries deal with combustible dusts
on a day-to-day basis, and they deal with them safely.
The sort of issue that we are talking about in our program
and our reports are the dust that you see here, that if this
was a pharmaceutical company, you wouldn't be throwing dust all
over the place. Because sugar is relatively low value, I guess
they consider that you clean it up, put it back in the process,
recycle it, it is OK.
The issue is that under certain--in many industries,
combustible dust has been dealt with and sometimes quite
dangerous combustible dust has been dealt with in a very
appropriate way with the appropriate training of the employees,
the appropriate equipment to either prevent or mitigate the
dust explosions. Let me just refer to something that Mr. Foulke
I agree with him on the issue of who is responsible for
making sure that facilities are run in a safe manner. I worked
in industry for 35 years. It is the industry company who has a
basic responsibility. However, for industry to run safely, they
do need some guidance. They need guidance in the way of
From my perspective, having worked in the chemical
industry, a good starting point for a combustible dust program
would be something similar to the one that OSHA has for
chemicals and refineries, the process safety regulation. It
wouldn't take exactly the same thing, but you could--that would
be a good starting point for them, where you have operator
training and mechanical integrity programs, making sure the
place is kept appropriate, doing process hazard analysis to
determine if you have a particularly dangerous dust.
Senator Chambliss. Mr. Foulke, anything you want to
comment, on that?
Mr. Foulke. Well, you know, it is clear and our position
has always been and the act clearly states it is the employer's
responsibility. 5(a)(1) of the act says an employer is
responsible to provide a safe and healthy workplace for its
employees as free from safety and health hazards that can cause
death or serious injuries.
I mean, the act--you can't make it any clearer than that.
And then to say that we provide a lot of information and
guidance. That is part of what our responsibility is to provide
guidance to employers to be able to have a safe and healthy
workplace. That is why we put out the SHIB in 2005 dealing with
combustible dust. It is numerous pages, but it outlines all the
items that are responsible--it outlines all the different
It talks about accumulation of dust. It talks about
ignition sources. It talks about those type of things that you
have to do to be able to eliminate----
Senator Chambliss. I hear what you are saying. Let me move
on because my time is going to run out. You just mentioned
really what I want to get to. There is no way to operate a
sugar manufacturing facility like Port Wentworth or, for that
matter, Gramercy, which I have never seen, without some dust
being in the air. Chemical, pharmaceutical plants, I assume, is
In addition to having the dust, there has got to be some
control over what ignites that dust. What did you find here
from a fault standpoint relative to creating the spark that
ignited this dust?
Mr. Foulke. Yes, we found a number of instances, 42 per-
instance citations were on 44 pieces of spark-producing,
nondust proof electrical equipment in combustible dust areas.
Our electrical standard, 1910.307 specifically states and talks
about having dust-proof, spark-proof equipment in combustible
Clearly, here if you are able to eliminate the ignition
source, there is basically a couple of things you can do to
eliminate all combustible dust hazards. You eliminate the
combustible dust, and that comes under a housekeeping standard.
Also if you eliminate the ignition sources, which our
electrical equipment standard covers, then you have eliminated
the potential for an explosion.
Senator Chambliss. Thank you.
Senator Murray. Mr. Bresland, I wanted you to respond to
Mr. Foulke's statements about the adequacy of the current OSHA
standards and need for a single dust standard. Do you believe
that we need a single dust standard?
Mr. Bresland. Yes, I do. Especially if you compare the
current OSHA housekeeping standard, which is--I have it
somewhere in here. This is the totality of OSHA's regulations
for general industry. If you look at the housekeeping standard
in there, it is one paragraph in that whole book. If you look
at the grain dust standard, there is more detail in the grain
dust standard--things like emergency action plans, training for
employees, hot work permits, appropriate safe entry activities.
Certainly, one major one is a requirement for a written
program for housekeeping. If there had been a written program
for housekeeping in Port Wentworth, I don't think you would be
seeing the sort of photographs that you see here today.
Senator Murray. What about the training issue? Mr. Foulke,
are OSHA inspectors trained specifically on dust standards
Mr. Foulke. Yes, Madam Chairwoman. We have a program--the
training program that we have on combustible dust, all of our
new COSHOs have received initial training, basic training on
combustible dust as part of their overall initial training as
they begin their work with OSHA.
Then there are additional courses that are taken that deal
more specifically with combustible dust, such as our hazard
communication standard, the electrical standard training
course. Then, of course, we have now a 3\1/2\ day course
specifically on combustible dust training.
We have a broad scope of training for all our compliance
Senator Murray. Required? Is the training required?
Mr. Foulke. The initial training, certain of the training
is required, yes.
Senator Murray. There was a recent 60 Minutes show, where a
former OSHA inspector said he was never trained on dust
standards and didn't recognize these hazards during
investigations. Were you aware of his comments on that?
Mr. Foulke. I saw the show, yes.
Senator Murray. And?
Mr. Foulke. Well, it kind of surprised me because I would
say--of course, he was a retired compliance officer. I know
that for at least the last decade, we have been--the initial
training for compliance officers has included a segment dealing
with combustible dust.
Senator Murray. For how long back, I am sorry?
Mr. Foulke. At least a decade.
Senator Murray. OK, and so how many are trained today?
Mr. Foulke. Well, all of our COSHOs have initial training
as part of their--we have also done refresher training for
1,400 COSHOs and employees both of the Federal OSHA and State
plans OSHA. We did refresher training on that. We also----
Senator Murray. Do you have a plan-specific in place to
have everyone trained?
Mr. Foulke. On?
Senator Murray. On the----
Mr. Foulke. They do receive some training on combustible
dust. With respect--are you saying that we are going to have
training on the 3\1/2\ day course just on combustible dust?
Senator Murray. Yes, specifically, are all of our OSHA
inspectors going to be trained at a specific point so that we
don't see this in the future?
Mr. Foulke. I don't know what you mean by ``see this in the
future.'' I think we had our compliance officers go in on
Imperial Sugar and they were able to cite them, and we are very
familiar with all the combustible dust hazards and all the
things associated with combustible dust. What we are doing is,
we are moving forward to make sure that at least one person----
Senator Murray. Are you telling us that all of the OSHA
inspectors that you have today are properly trained to deal
with combustible dust?
Mr. Foulke. All of our COSHOs, I believe, have had training
on--initial training on combustible dust. Some of them have had
additional training, more extensive training on combustible
dust, including the 3\1/2\ day training course.
Senator Murray. Let's go back to the proposed standard,
which is what this committee is trying to look at, and the
housekeeping standard that you cite doesn't apply to many
places in these facilities. Are your OSHA people being trained
to look beyond just the housekeeping standards, or do we need
another standard so that we get the training in place to make
sure inspectors know what they have to be looking for?
Mr. Foulke. Well, the standard normally, any OSHA standard
normally does not cover training of the COSHOs. What it does is
training of employees of employers.
Senator Murray. If there is a standard?
Mr. Foulke. What we would do is we would train them on
that. Right now, we already have training that they have
received, all the new COSHOs coming onboard and that have been
onboard for the last decade have received, as part of their
initial training, training on combustible dust.
We have had more extensive training. For those that have
been trained on process safety management, there is a component
of combustible dust training in there. We have had 350 people
trained since 2000. On hazardous materials, there is a section
on that. Three hundred forty-one have been trained since 2000.
Chemical process safety also has a component of combustible
dust, and we have had 331 employees trained. Since December
2007, the 2\1/2\ day course, we have trained over 101 COSHOs on
Senator Murray. OK, Mr. Bresland, if we had a specific
standard for combustible dust, would we have better training,
and would we have more focus at OSHA on that training? Is that
what I understood you were saying?
Mr. Bresland. Yes, if there was a specific standard for
combustible dust and if it was similar to either the process
safety management standard--and it doesn't have to be as
detailed as that--or if it was similar to the grain standard.
There would be a requirement in there for training of employers
and employees on the hazards of combustible dust.
Senator Brown. Madam Chair, could I ask a question related
Senator Murray. Let me just follow up with Mr. Foulke, and
then I am happy to give you a quick moment.
My understanding is that you did testify to the House
Education and Labor Committee, Mr. Foulke, that you were
considering proposing a comprehensive combustible dust
standard. Are you?
Mr. Foulke. Yes, ma'am. We have not ruled out a combustible
dust standard. What we are doing is we are taking the
information that we get from our National Emphasis Program.
Anytime we do a standard, we normally go out and do research
into those industries and those facilities that we would be
regulating as part of that standard.
Part of our National Emphasis Program on dealing with
combustible dust, we are getting to go out and identify those
facilities that have all these types of different combustible
Senator Murray. Well, to answer my question, are we going
to see a comprehensive dust standard from OSHA?
Mr. Foulke. We are going to consider--what we are looking
at, when we get the information back from the NEP. The NEP has
not been completed. Two thirds of the inspections that we had
done for combustible dust under the NEP have not been
completed. They have been opened, and they have been
investigated, but we haven't completed them.
Once we get the data from these inspections and are able to
determine it--we are not losing any ground here because if we
had to go and do a rulemaking, we would have to go out to these
different facilities to determine how a standard would impact
it and how to write the standard. The NEP is actually helping
us get ahead if we do go forward with a standard.
Senator Murray. Did you have really quick question?
Senator Brown. If the Chair would yield for a second, I
want to follow up on that.
The report from Mr. Bresland from 2006 has provided
obviously a good deal of information for what might be a
proposed rule on a dust standard, Mr. Foulke. If diacetyl--I
don't know how long you have been working on that--wouldn't
come out, wouldn't be published even until late 2009, what
would you expect, if you had answered yes to Chairwoman
Murray's question? We will pursue a standard, how long would
you expect that would take you to do?
Mr. Foulke. It would be hard for me to speculate. I would
say that the--I point out that the grain standard took 8 years
Senator Murray. Senator Isakson.
Senator Isakson. How many standards have you had vacated by
judicial order? Because you referred earlier----
Mr. Foulke. Oh, I was talking about the emergency temporary
Senator Isakson. OK.
Mr. Foulke. Where we put in emergency temporary standard,
which would require us under--this is a provision that is in
the act that allows us, when we find a grave hazard----
Senator Isakson. I understand what it is. How many of those
were vacated? You made a reference to it in your opening.
Mr. Foulke. Of the nine that we have done, six were
contested. Five were vacated, were thrown out by the courts.
Senator Isakson. Five out of six?
Mr. Foulke. Five out of six that were contested.
Senator Isakson. OK. Mr. Bresland, I commend your report.
It has seven pages of explanations of acronyms. I so much
appreciate your including those. The problem is I have to keep
going back and forth to remember which one I am reading.
In one site, you made finding No. 7, your finding, you say,
41 percent of the 140 combustible powder MSDSs the CSB surveyed
did not warn users about explosive hazards, and only 7 percent
referenced appropriate NFPA dust standards to prevent dust
explosions. And then MSDS is defined as ``material safety data
sheets.'' Who produces those?
Mr. Bresland. They are produced by the company that is
either manufacturing or selling the chemical involved.
Senator Isakson. It would be an MSDS of Imperial's with
regard to sugar dust?
Mr. Bresland. Theoretically, there should be a material
safety data sheet for sugar and for sugar dust and--
Senator Isakson. And it is proprietary to the refiner?
Mr. Bresland. No. No, it is a public document.
Senator Isakson. It is a public document?
Mr. Bresland. Yes.
Senator Isakson. Who is responsible for making it public
and developing it?
Mr. Bresland. It is developed by the company based on
research and looking at the particular properties, either the
hazardous properties or the dangerous properties of the
chemical involved. Most of them are available on the Internet.
If you want an MSDS, you can click on----
Senator Isakson. It is general information then that
somebody in that particular business that might deal with that
particular property should seek out and find for themselves? It
is not a part of a regulatory rule or anything like that?
Mr. Bresland. There is a regulatory requirement, and I
don't have a lot of detailed information on that, that an MSDS
should be prepared, has to be prepared before it goes into
Senator Isakson. You said in your testimony that \1/32\ of
an inch was a generally accepted standard for accumulation of
dust. Is that correct?
Mr. Bresland. Correct, yes.
Senator Isakson. Do you know how deep the dust is in that
particular series of pictures?
Mr. Bresland. Oh, in the bottom right, it looks like it is
several feet deep.
Senator Isakson. Several feet deep?
Mr. Bresland. Yes. We didn't take these photographs. These
were taken by either someone from Imperial or someone doing an
Senator Isakson. And \1/32\ is an accepted standard?
Mr. Bresland. \1/32\ is the National Fire Protection
Association standard for 5 percent of a covered surface.
Senator Isakson. If I were a company, I would insure my
plant, and the insurance company would have a risk management
officer, I am sure. Do you know how much, and I really wish I
had thought of this, of having somebody from the insurance
industry testify, because they can be the big losers in these
things, so to speak, because they are assuming a lot of the
risk up to the amount of--
Do you know if they do periodic inspections on dust
Mr. Bresland. I don't know, and that is something that we
will be looking into as our investigation continues, looking
into what--assuming that insurance inspectors came into that
facility, did they look at this and make a recommendation or a
judgment as to the hazards of having as much accumulated sugar
dust lying around the facility? I would hope they would look at
that and say that is not acceptable.
Senator Isakson. Well, my experience is that many of your
findings and your investigations end up being a part of risk
management calculations by insurers anyway. Isn't that correct?
Mr. Bresland. Our investigations are read by a wide variety
of people around the world, and certainly, they are read
carefully by insurance companies.
Senator Isakson. Which goes back, I guess, Mr. Foulke, to
the incorporation of the general duty clause of the original
Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act?
Mr. Foulke. That is correct. Yes, Senator. What you have
here is the act was intended, once again, to put the
responsibility on the employers to provide a safe work site.
The only way you can provide a safe work site is to identify
the hazards that are in your work site.
To me, I think a reasonable person, if I am in business, a
reasonable person would try to figure out what hazards you have
in your business if you are supposed to be running a business
in this particular industry. The insurance companies do--to
answer your other question about the insurance companies, the
answer is, yes, they do go out and look into these facilities.
They do provide audits for all industries.
Senator Isakson. Last, I have a question that you won't be
able to answer, but if you would get me an answer to this, Mr.
Foulke, I would appreciate it. I would like to know how many
times in the last 10 years OSHA has received a compliant by an
employee against an employer for accumulation of dust?
Mr. Foulke. I don't have that information, but I am sure--
Senator Isakson. I know, but would you get that for me? I
would be interested in knowing how many times that has
Mr. Foulke. Yes.
Senator Isakson. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Senator Murray. Senator Chambliss.
Senator Chambliss. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mr. Foulke, I want to go back to the igniting of this dust
issue because in my reading of your report, talking to your
folks, there apparently is a conclusion that the most likely
source of the igniting of the dust in this case came out of
the, I guess, collision we will say of a bucket that is used to
hold sugar, processed sugar that is one of any number of
buckets that goes along a conveyor belt, and that that bucket
came into contact with another metal object.
You know, that is a process that without knowing exactly
how long it has been in operation at this particular facility
or other facilities that are similar, it has been there for
decades. Is there anything in your regulations that addresses
the ignition side of it from that standpoint of equipment like
that that is operated?
Mr. Foulke. Well, we do have, like I said, our electrical
standard requires dust-proof, explosive-proof equipment.
Senator Chambliss. Well, I understand from an electrical
standpoint, but I am talking about metal-on-metal type
Mr. Foulke. Right. Well, no, what you would be doing here
really is just preventive maintenance or maintenance of the
equipment, the proper maintenance of the equipment. There would
be a requirement--manufacturing requirement to have equipment
properly maintained so that you wouldn't have this occurring.
The other thing in this particular case, most likely, this
explosion or this initial explosion is what triggered the
massive explosions that caused the secondary explosions.
Usually in combustible dust, these situations, it is the
secondary explosions that cause all the--or most of the damage
and the loss of life.
If the company had been following the housekeeping
requirements on accumulation of dust, if they had eliminated
that, clearly the secondary explosions would not have occurred,
and we would not have had the devastation nor the loss of life
that we had.
Senator Chambliss. Yes. And that goes to my second question
I was going to get to. It looks to me like, from what Senator
Isakson and I were told the other day and what you just talked
about, this secondary explosion, if there had been a mechanism
in place that was sucking that dust out through some exhaust
fan or whatever, you wouldn't have had the concentration of
dust throughout the plant subject to being ignited. Is that a
Mr. Foulke. If it had been removed? If they would have had
a dust collection system that brought the dust outside the
plant, and we did cite them under--for not having a proper dust
collection system and also venting out to the outside, if the
venting had occurred outside.
Those are the things. If you had pushed the dust outside,
then obviously you can't have the explosion. Because one of
the--in combustible dust explosions, you have basically a
pentagon. You have to have oxygen. You have to have ignition
source. You have to have combustible dust. The two things, the
other things you have to have is confinement. If you have this
being vented out and if you have vents venting out, you can't
have the accumulation. If you are venting all the dust out,
then you can't have the dust cloud to assemble.
Clearly, we have one of the pictures here, and I can't see
which one it is here, but where it shows that, clearly, you
have a dust--in the operation at the Gramercy plant, you have a
dust cloud there at the time we were doing the inspection. I
think it ties into Mr. Bresland's discussion and his testimony
about it was so hard that you couldn't even see. Well, you can
see from the picture that it was difficult--you can see that
there is a haze of sugar dust in the air.
Senator Chambliss. You made the statement that a safe work
site burden is on the employer, and I agree with that. I think
that is an accurate statement and where the burden should be
In your testimony on page 4, you say,
``Imperial Sugar was aware that there were hazards
caused by combustible dust at its facilities and knew
that it had not been effectively managing dust
accumulations for a number of years.''
What are the factual--what facts do you base that statement on?
Mr. Foulke. Well, Senator, I am sorry. I really cannot--
because the case is under litigation, I am limited as to what I
can discuss about the facts of the case that may impact on how
we do it. I think the pictures speak for themselves in that,
and I think you can see, this accumulation of dust did not
Senator Chambliss. Well, the pictures here that show a pile
of sugar in several different areas, that is not the problem as
compared to the dust that is in the air. Is that a fair
Mr. Bresland, let me address that to you since those are--
Mr. Bresland. What I would worry about when I see the
photographs where you are seeing maybe a foot or two of dust,
as Mr. Foulke said, these dust explosions typically take place
in two parts. The first part is some sort of a minor or
relatively minor explosion in the facility, and it may have
been caused by a spark. That minor explosion causes the dust
that you see here, the buildup, it causes that to roof up. If
it was inside this room, it would turn into a floating dust,
and I probably wouldn't be able to see you because it would be
Senator Chambliss. It would be just like a gust of wind
Mr. Bresland. It would blow it up.
Senator Chambliss [continuing]. And blows it up?
Mr. Bresland. It would blow it up. Then the secondary
explosion, which is caused by another ignition source, that is
the one that causes the most damage. You take this material
here that looks fairly innocuous lying there, and it can lie
there as an innocuous material for years. Then when this one-
of-a-kind explosion, small explosion takes place, it causes
this to be distributed inside--especially inside a confined
space, and then the secondary explosion takes place.
Senator Chambliss. Then if you had an exhaust system that
we just talked about that really was doing its job, if you did
have this kind of accumulation that we see in these photographs
there, that exhaust system might, in fact, even contribute to
dust in the air. Is that a fair statement?
Mr. Bresland. Not necessarily. What I worry about when I
see dust like this, this isn't cleaned up by an exhaust system.
It is cleaned up by----
Senator Chambliss. I understand that, but it is more
indication that you shouldn't have this.
Mr. Bresland. Oh, no, absolutely not.
Senator Chambliss. If you have got an exhaust system that
is working, it is going to pull up some of that sugar into the
Mr. Bresland. I agree. I agree.
Senator Chambliss. Thank you.
Senator Murray. Thank you very much.
Mr. Bresland, I just want to ask you really quickly, in
your written testimony, you said that you were previously
unsupportive of a Federal combustible dust standard and you now
are. Can you share with us why you have changed your mind?
Mr. Bresland. Back when the committee voted on this, back
in November 2006, my concern was that having read the report
and having been to the scene of at least two major dust
explosions, that there was an issue out there that required a
speedy response from OSHA. By a speedy response, I mean a very
strong education program to get out there and tell the world
you really need to do something about this.
My concern about the regulatory side of it was a regulation
could take, as in the case of the grain standard, 8 years. I
wanted something that was going to happen immediately and
quickly so that people would become aware.
Senator Murray. OK.
Mr. Bresland. Having seen, having gone to Imperial Sugar
and gone to Port Wentworth and having seen that and also having
heard of the terrible effect that it is having not only
obviously on the people who were killed, but the people who
were grievously injured and grievously burned, my current
thinking in this is that a standard that we can get as quickly
as possible would be the appropriate way to go.
Senator Murray. I appreciate that.
Mr. Foulke, I have one more question for you on a different
subject while you are before our committee before we turn to
our next panel, unless my colleagues have any other questions.
I wanted to ask you about a disturbing issue that came to
our attention last week when the Washington Post ran an article
that the Department of Labor submitted a proposed regulation
entitled ``Requirements for DOL Agencies' Assessment of
Occupational Health Risks'' to OMB for review. That really
concerns me and the members of this HELP Committee, who have
been waiting now for DOL and OSHA to submit proposed rules to
protect workers from well-known hazards, sometimes in the case
Two examples that quickly come to mind is the crane and
derricks standard that has now been languishing for more than 4
years after a consensus standard was developed. We recently
wrote a letter to Secretary Chao about that. Of course, the
combustible dust standard that we are looking at now.
It was surprising to many of us that the Department of
Labor now has a priority to pass a standard that wasn't even on
the department's Spring 2007 priority list of 38 potential
workplace safety regulations and one that could potentially
make it even harder to protect employees. I wanted to ask you
why the Department of Labor considers this standard that we are
hearing about now more important than the 38 other potential
regulations that we have been waiting for?
Mr. Foulke. Well, Madam Chairwoman, I would say this with
respect to your comment about--we are moving quickly on all our
standards. We are pushing all of them. You mentioned about the
cranes and derricks standard languishing. It hasn't languished.
It is just an extremely extensive standard. The committee that
worked on it, the negotiating and rulemaking committee that
worked on cranes and derricks just drafted the text. We had to
Senator Murray. OK. Now we are hearing about another
regulation that is going to jump ahead of all the work on other
regulations. Did your department consult with any of OSHA's
career scientific staff during the development of this
standard? Has that been in the works? Have we been hearing
Mr. Foulke. Well, we have been--with respect to the risk
assessment, rulemaking, we have been involved in providing
comments to the text. As I understand it, the purpose of the
rulemaking is to establish policies and procedures for the
department's agencies to follow when conducting risk
Senator Murray. You are telling us at this hearing that in
order to do crane and derrick standards or combustible dust
standards, you have to go out in the field. You have to do all
this extensive work. Was that done with this new standard that
is being pushed through OMB now?
Mr. Foulke. This is an internal rulemaking. It deals with
the department's policies and procedures. It is not--this could
have been done as a guidance document.
Senator Murray. It will have, as I understand it, severe
impact on worker safety should it move forward. You haven't
gone out in the field to ask questions about it?
Mr. Foulke. I would disagree. The thing is, I am unable to
comment because it is under current review by the OMB. I can't
comment on the specifics of it.
Senator Murray. But your department sent it to OMB, I
Mr. Foulke. The Department of Labor sent it, yes.
Senator Murray. Department of Labor sent it to them. OK.
Senator Isakson and Senator Chambliss, do either of you
have any additional questions?
Senator Isakson. Just one question. Mr. Bresland, there are
approximately 125 different items on this list up here,
everything from zinc and magnesium to sugar and wood dust. Are
the properties similar enough to where a single standard could
apply to all of them, or would you have to have a standard for
each of them?
Mr. Bresland. I think the properties that we are talking
about, the properties of explosivity are similar enough and the
testing is similar enough that a test or maybe one or two
different tests could be used to determine the relative dangers
of these materials, such as the minimum ignition energy or the
particle size or another property called KST.
Senator Isakson. I----
Mr. Bresland. Excuse me, Senator. I think this question
might be better addressed to one of the people on the next
panel who is an expert on the issue.
Senator Isakson. I am going to do that. One other question,
who does those tests now?
Mr. Bresland. There are companies that are specialized.
Senator Isakson. Who initiates them to get those companies
to do them?
Mr. Bresland. It would have to be initialized by the
Senator Isakson. Would you think if we did a standard that
we would need to initiate those tests first to determine those
Mr. Bresland. That would be part of the standard, where you
would require--I don't know that you would require, but there
would be something in the standard that would say you have to
find out if this material is dangerous or not. You would take a
sample and send it off to the company. Then if it is dangerous,
you would take the appropriate preventive actions.
Senator Isakson. In that example, when you say you would
have to do a test to determine the properties, you are talking
about the company?
Mr. Bresland. Correct, yes.
Senator Isakson. The burden goes back on the company to
hire the test to determine the volatility of the dust?
Mr. Bresland. That is typical of industry, certainly the
chemical and refining industry.
If I may make just one quick comment on a question you had
originally on material safety data sheets? I am not sure if my
answer was completely accurate. We need to follow up on the
issue of material safety data sheets for sugar, which is a
product that is regulated by the FDA, and we will get back to
you on that.
Senator Isakson. Please, I would appreciate it. Thank you,
Senator Murray. Senator Chambliss, do you have any
additional questions? OK.
We thank both of you for your testimony. Again, if you
could please stay in case we do have additional questions after
listening to the testimony of the second panel.
If the second panel could please come forward to present
Thank you very much to all of our next panelists. Is Amy
Spencer here? Yes, there you are. OK. We are going to begin
with Amy Spencer, then turn to Richard Prugh, and then to
Graham Graham for his testimony.
Ms. Spencer, as soon as you are seated.
Go ahead. You can begin.
STATEMENT OF AMY SPENCER, SENIOR CHEMICAL ENGINEER, NATIONAL
FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION, QUINCY, MA
Ms. Spencer. Good morning, Chair Murray, Ranking Member
Isakson, Senator Chambliss, Senator Brown. I appreciate the
opportunity to speak with you about combustible dust and what
NFPA can do to help workers.
I am Amy Beasley Spencer, a senior chemical engineer
representing the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA),
and I have been with the association for 12 years. I serve as
the staff liaison to several NFPA technical committees
responsible for dust documents.
The title of this hearing is ``Dangerous Dust: Is OSHA
Doing Enough to Protect Workers?'' Without slighting the many
successes of OSHA, when answering the question with respect to
combustible dust, the answer is no. NFPA believes OSHA must
develop regulations to address and mitigate dust hazards by
incorporating by reference the relevant NFPA codes and
OSHA, like NFPA, has a record of saving lives. However, we
cannot allow past successes to breed complacency, especially
when mounting evidence suggests there is more that can be done,
more lives that can be saved. Lives that would inevitably and
predictably be lost during preventable dust explosions such as
the 13 lives lost at Imperial Sugar.
The NFPA standards that could have prevented those
explosions were never made mandatory nationwide. OSHA doesn't
have to reinvent the wheel. The tools exist in NFPA documents
to prevent these tragedies. We wouldn't need the 8 years that
Assistant Secretary Foulke testified about this morning with
the grain standard to come to fruition if the NFPA codes and
standards were adopted.
Today, I will start by providing a brief background of NFPA
and a description of the relevant codes and standards. NFPA is
an international membership organization that develops
voluntary consensus codes and standards that are adopted by
State and local jurisdictions throughout the United States and
internationally. The NFPA consensus process and the periodic
revisions of all documents ensure state-of-the-art practices
and safeguards are included.
NFPA has more than 250 committees made up of about 4,000
experts who represent diverse interests such as enforcers,
users, consumers, manufacturers, designers, research,
insurance, and labor. They develop nearly 300 codes and
standards. The NFPA documents are updated on a 3- to 5-year
basis through a consensus process involving a balance of
stakeholders. In fact, one of the NFPA dust committees has
technical committee members from both the Department of Labor
and the Chemical Safety Board, CSB.
Many NFPA codes and standards appear as mandatory
references cited throughout Federal agency regulations,
including OSHA. NFPA's principal dust document, NFPA 654,
covers the fundamentals of protecting dust hazard processes and
is also often referenced in other dust documents.
We also have commodity-specific documents covering coal,
sulfur, combustible metals, wood dust facilities, and
agricultural dust. I won't bore you with the long names and the
numerical designations. NFPA provides comprehensive coverage of
dust hazards in seven dust-related documents originating as
early as 1923. Assistant Secretary Foulke pointed to the large
stack of documents on the side. If you adopt NFPA documents,
you are also adopting all those.
I took a quick look at the 40 that were referenced. Some
were mom and apple pie, and I would be happy to address what
those are, like the National Electrical Code, sprinkler
standards, exiting standards that you are going to be doing
anyway. I would love to discuss that later.
The NFPA documents were highlighted in the recently passed
Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires
Act, H.R. 5522, as well as the CSB recommendations and
industrial peer-reviewed journals. OSHA highlights these same
documents in their National Emphasis Program and their Safety
and Health Information Bulletin. All our desk documents address
the hazards of combustible dust in three simple steps.
First, hazard recognition. You have to know that you have
the hazard. Second, an evaluation, which includes examining the
processes and equipment. And last, hazard control.
In conclusion, OSHA cites statistics that show that there
are fewer injuries and deaths in the workplace. People often
think of these statistics as if they are just part of the
natural evolution of society. Not true.
The declining number of accidents is the result of decades
of hard work by dedicated technical experts, the enforcement
community, first responders, safety advocates, and many others,
including legislators such as you. Preventing those tragedies
is the reason that NFPA exists, and that purpose is what brings
to this hearing today. Let us not ignore the combustible dust
problem by assuming OSHA has it covered already or attempt to
reinvent the wheel by having OSHA write new regulations when
the information already exists in NFPA documents.
The challenge for us all is to effectively disseminate the
information, provide sufficient training and enforcement.
Moreover, I believe the best method to accomplish this safety
goal is for OSHA to develop a regulation to address and
mitigate dust hazards by incorporating by reference NFPA codes
NFPA is committed to assist where appropriate in these
activities. For all these reasons, we respectfully urge the
Senate to take any action to ensure that OSHA mandates
combustible dust safety through the use of NFPA codes and
Thank you for your attention and the opportunity to
[The prepared statement of Ms. Spencer follows:]
Prepared Statement of Amy Beasley Spencer
Good morning. Chairman Murray, Ranking Member Isakson and committee
members, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about combustible
I am Amy Beasley Spencer, a Senior Chemical Engineer representing
the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and have worked at the
Association for 12 years. I serve as the Staff Liaison to several NFPA
Technical Committees responsible for combustible dust documents.
The title of this hearing is ``Dangerous Dust: Is OSHA Doing Enough
to Protect Workers?'' Without slighting the many successes of OSHA,
when answering the question with respect to combustible dusts, the
answer is ``no''. NFPA believes OSHA must develop regulations to
address and mitigate dust hazards by incorporating by reference the
relevant NFPA codes and standards.
OSHA, like NFPA, has a record of saving lives; however, we cannot
allow past successes to breed complacency, especially when mounting
evidence suggests there is more that can be done. More lives can be
saved. Lives that would inevitably and predictably be lost during
preventable dust explosions such as the 13 lives lost at Imperial
Sugar. The NFPA standards that could have prevented those explosions
were never made mandatory nationwide. OSHA doesn't have to reinvent the
wheel--the tools exist in NFPA documents to prevent these tragedies.
Today I will provide a brief background of NFPA, a description of
the relevant codes and standards that address dust hazard processes,
and conclude with discussion on how I believe these documents could
provide a safe and effective strategy for identifying and controlling
processes that store, handle or use combustible dusts or other
combustible particulate solids.
NFPA is an international membership organization that develops
voluntary consensus codes and standards that are adopted by State and
local jurisdictions throughout the United States and the rest of the
world. The NFPA consensus process and the periodic revisions of all
documents ensure state-of-the-art practices and safeguards are
NFPA has more than 250 committees made up of about 4,000 experts,
who represent diverse interests (such as enforcers, users, consumers,
manufacturers, designers, researchers, insurance and labor) and they
develop nearly 300 codes and standards. These NFPA documents are
updated on a 3-5 year basis through a consensus process involving a
balance of stakeholders. In fact, one of the NFPA dust committees has
technical members from both the Department of Labor and the Chemical
Safety Board (CSB).
Many NFPA codes and standards appear as mandatory references cited
throughout Federal agency regulations, including OSHA. NFPA codes and
standards provide a broad-based and comprehensive set of requirements
applicable to many hazards, including combustible dusts.
NFPA's principal dust document NFPA 654, Standard for the
Prevention of Fires and Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing,
and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids covers the fundamentals
of protecting dust hazard processes, and its handling and conveying
requirements are often referenced in other dust documents. We also have
commodity-specific dust documents covering coal, sulfur, combustible
metals, wood dust facilities and agricultural dust. I don't want to
bore you with the long names and numerical designations, but NFPA
provides comprehensive coverage of dust hazards in 7 dust-related
documents originating as early as 1923.
The NFPA documents were highlighted in the recently passed Worker
Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosion and Fires Act (H.R.
5522), as well as the CSB recommendations and industrial peer-reviewed
journals. OSHA highlights these same documents in their National
Emphasis Program and their Safety and Health Information Bulletin. All
our dust documents address the hazards of combustible dusts in three
simple steps--hazard identification (starting with knowing you have a
hazard), hazard evaluation (examining the processes and equipment), and
lastly, hazard control.
In conclusion, OSHA cites statistics that show that there are fewer
injuries and deaths in the workplace. People often think of these
statistics as if they are just part of the natural evolution of
society. Not true. The declining number of accidents is the result of
decades of hard work by dedicated technical experts, the enforcement
community, first responders, safety advocates and many others,
including legislators such as you. Preventing those tragedies is the
reason that NFPA exists, and that purpose is what brings us to this
hearing today. Let's not ignore the combustible dust problem by
assuming ``OSHA has it covered already'' or attempt to reinvent the
wheel by having OSHA write new regulations when the information already
exists in NFPA documents.
The challenge for us all is to effectively disseminate the
information, to provide sufficient training and ensure consistent
enforcement. Moreover, I believe the best method to accomplish this
safety goal is for OSHA to develop a mandatory standard to address and
mitigate dust hazards by incorporating by reference the relevant NFPA
codes and standards. NFPA is committed to assist where appropriate in
these activities and for all these reasons, we respectfully urge the
Senate to take any action to ensure that OSHA mandates combustible dust
safety through the use of NFPA codes and standards.
Thank you for your attention and the opportunity to testify.
Senator Murray. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD W. PRUGH, SENIOR PROCESS
SAFETY SPECIALIST, CHILWORTH TECHNOLOGY, INC.,
Mr. Prugh. Good morning. I should preface my remarks with
the following statement. Chilworth is recognized around the
world as a leading expert in combustible dust testing and
consulting, and we have been working with Imperial on the
rebuild of the plant in Port Wentworth, GA.
I am testifying today as to my general expertise on the
issue of combustible dust and not as Imperial's witness. And as
such, I cannot answer specific questions pertaining to
Imperial's particular situation before or after the February 7
Thank you for the opportunity to present some of the
technical details that are involved in the control of dust
explosions. The fire triangle shows the necessary components of
a fire. Similarly, the explosion pentagon shows the necessary
components of a combustible dust explosion.
The concentration of fuel in the oxidant is very important.
For example, the lower flammable limit, the so-called lean
limit for gasoline is about 1 percent in the air. The upper
flammable limit, the rich limit is about 6 percent. If the
concentration is not between these limits, the mixture will not
There is also a lower limit for combustible dust, and it is
termed the minimal explosible concentration. For example, the
lower limit for many dusts corresponds to about 2 pounds of
very fine dust suspended in a 10 foot by 12 foot by 8 foot
room, like a small bedroom. There is a rule of thumb for
explosible dust concentrations. If you can see the thumb at the
end of your outstretched arm, the concentration of dust is too
low to propagate combustion. That is too low to cause an
explosion or a flash fire.
All materials that are combustible can explode under the
right set of conditions. Concentrations above the minimum
explosible concentration occur in many items or process
equipment and are dust collectors when the collected dusts are
shaken or blown back from the filters. Very high concentration
of dust within rooms or buildings can occur when accumulations
of dust are dispersed from mechanical shock, a blast of air,
dumping bags of powder, and vigorous sweeping.
Dense dust clouds also can occur when accumulations of dust
at high elevations in rooms or buildings are disturbed by a
primary explosion, and ignition of the descending and suspended
dust cloud can result in a damaging secondary explosion.
High elevation accumulations of dust can result from the
use of compressed air for cleaning equipment and services. This
results in lofting of very small particles to upper elevations,
where they may settle onto horizontal surfaces. Such
accumulations are a secondary explosion waiting to happen.
If the energy of an ignition source is not sufficient,
propagating combustion cannot be initiated. For many
combustible dusts, the minimum ignition energy is very low,
such that the electrostatic energy on the human body can cause
propagating combustion. Other ignition sources are electrical
arcs, flames, hot surfaces, and the electrostatic energy on
If the combustible mixture of dust and air is confined, the
resulting hot combustion gases can generate very high
pressures. Such pressures can rupture equipment, destroy walls
and ceilings of rooms and buildings, and threaten personnel.
The oxidant, the oxygen in the air, can be forced out of
process equipment by an inert gas. An inert powder or mist can
quench or suppress the combustion.
The process equipment can be constructed to contain the
maximum pressure that could be developed by a dust air
explosion. Local exhaust ventilation can be provided at
equipment openings where dust is generated or released. The
explosion can be vented to minimize the pressure generated by
the combustion gases.
When combustion of a small, dense dust cloud occurs in an
unconfined space, the result can be a flash fire. Persons
inside the flash fire are at risk of serious injury,
particularly if they are wearing combustible clothing. Thus,
persons who handle dusty, combustible powder should be wearing
At the present time, there exists several legislated and
guidance documents that could serve as models for Federal rules
for dust hazard controls. The general duty clause is often used
by OSHA when there is no specific standard that applies to a
recognized hazard in the workplace.
OSHA frequently cites housekeeping standards, but these
standards do not address the need for preventing and removing
accumulations of dust on elevated surfaces or address many
important ignition sources such as hot surfaces, static
electricity, and open flames or wielding sparks.
The problem--a very high percentage of dusts are
combustible, including solid hydrocarbons such as polyethylene,
carbohydrates such as grains, and many metals such as aluminum.
Every combustible material will create an explosion with the
right conditions. At present, all 50 States ``administer'' the
International Building Code, which contains extensive
requirements for explosion protection for combustible dust, but
there is very modest enforcement of this code.
The solution--companies that produce, process, or handle
combustible dusts and powders need to determine the
explosibility properties of their materials. These data should
then be formally communicated within their organizations and to
their customers. Plant operators should assess the hazards that
are associated with processes that are operated in their
Existing today are the technology and knowledge, codes,
standards and guidelines, and engineering expertise that are
needed to protect personnel and property from combustible dust
explosions. An objective of the proposed Federal legislation
should be to require plant operators to adopt and abide by the
above guidance toward solution of the existing dust explosion
[The prepared statement of Mr. Prugh follows:]
Prepared Statement of Richard W. Prugh
Thank you for the opportunity to present some of the technical
details that are involved in dust explosions and in methods for
preventing such incidents, with some discussion of existing hazard-
control rules and regulations.
As stated in the ``Background'' to the National Emphasis Program of
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
``Dust deflagration, and other fire and explosion hazards in
industries are covered by several OSHA standards and the
general duty clause. A chemical dust deflagration occurs when
the right concentration of finely divided chemical dust
suspended in air is exposed to a sufficient source of ignition
to cause ignition (combustion) of the dust. If the deflagration
is in a confined area, an explosion potential exists. These
materials can also cause other fires. Combustible dust is often
either organic or metal dust that is finely ground into very
small particles. The actual quantity of dust that may
accumulate in an affected area may vary, depending upon air
movement, particle size, or any number of other factors.''
Recent incidents have indicated that the hazards of combustible
materials in dust form either:
(1) have not been recognized by the persons that have a
responsibility to protect employees, or
(2) adequate precautions--in the form of engineering or
administrative controls--to minimize the hazards have not been taken.
Aside from exposures to toxic dusts, the most serious of worker
exposures to dusts involves explosion and flash-fire of clouds of
The most-basic premise in the control of dust-explosion hazards is
that all materials that are combustible can explode, under ``the
right'' set of conditions. Thus, it is essential that managers study
processes that generate dust, to determine the properties of the
materials involved, identify the conditions that could lead to dust
explosions, and then take action to prevent such incidents.
the right concentration
Like flammable gases and vapors, there is a lower limit to dust-
cloud concentrations that can result in propagating combustion, if a
strong ignition source is present. The lower limit is termed the
Minimum Explosible Concentration [MEC], as distinguished from the Lower
Explosive Limit [LEL] for gases and vapors. Whereas LELs usually are
expressed in terms of volume percent, the MECs are expressed in terms
of grams per cubic meter of air.
Mixtures of combustible dust and air at and above the Minimum
Explosible Concentration are very dense. The ``rule of thumb'' for such
mixtures is that the thumb cannot be seen at the end of an outstretched
arm. Concentrations above the Minimum Explosible Concentration occur in
some items of process equipment, such as mills and grinders, mixers and
blenders, and screeners and sifters, and in dust collectors when the
collected dusts are shaken or blown-back from the filters.
However, it is very unlikely that such high concentrations would
occur in rooms or buildings. Typically, such mixers occur only when
accumulations of dust are disturbed or dispersed; as examples, by
mechanical shock, a blast of air, dumping bags of powder, and vigorous
sweeping. Dense dust clouds also can occur when accumulations of dust
at high elevations in rooms or buildings are disturbed by a ``primary''
explosion, and ignition of the dense dust cloud can result in a
damaging ``secondary'' explosion.
High-elevation accumulations of dust can result from use of
compressed air for cleaning equipment and surfaces. This type of
cleaning results in ``classification'' of the dust, such that the
larger particles descend to the floor and the very small particles may
remain in suspension. Air currents can then loft the small particles to
upper elevations, where they may settle onto horizontal surfaces, such
as roof supports, ductwork, tall equipment, process piping, and cable
Unlike flammable gases and vapors, which have rather sharp Upper
Explosive Limits, most dusts do not have an upper limit for explosible
concentrations. Flammable gases and vapors at very high concentrations
in air form a mixture that is ``too rich'' to allow propagating
combustion. That is, the heat capacity of the ``extra'' gas or vapor
absorbs the heat of combustion, and flame does not propagate. For high
concentrations of combustible dust in air, however, the burning dust
can consume most of the available oxygen in the mixture, but combustion
may not completely stop. Thus, venting of an explosion from a ruptured
process vessel or from a dust collector can result in a very large
fireball, with the size of the fireball being several times the volume
of the original container.
There is an ``ideal'' concentration for each mixture of combustible
dust and air, and ignition of this concentration yields the maximum
explosion pressure, the fastest burning rate, and--typically--this
mixture is easiest to ignite. For some dusts, this concentration can be
calculated and is termed the ``stoichiometric'' concentration. For
example, the stoichiometric concentration for sugar/sucrose is about
245 grams per cubic meter; this corresponds to at least 20 million dust
particles in every cubic foot of air and would be a very dense dust
Prevention of dust clouds is attained by good design of equipment--
to provide containment of powders and dusts--and good housekeeping--
including prompt and careful removal of spilled powders and dusts.
a sufficient source of ignition
If the energy of an ignition source is not sufficient, propagating
combustion cannot occur. For many combustible dusts, the Minimum
Ignition Energy is very low, such that the electrostatic energy on the
human body can cause propagating combustion. It is more typical,
however, that somewhat greater energies are required, such as the
energy in an electrical arc, a flame, a hot surface, or the
electrostatic energy on ungrounded equipment.
Preventing ignition of possible dust clouds is attained by
grounding and bonding of equipment, to prevent accumulation of
electrostatic charges; installing electrical equipment that will
prevent intrusion of dusts, with compliance to the National Electrical
Code; ensuring absence of flames and high-energy arcs, with a ``hot
work'' permit system; prohibiting smoking in potentially dusty areas;
insulating or otherwise protecting hot surfaces; and good preventive-
maintenance and mechanical-
integrity programs, to prevent friction and impact-caused ignition
confinement of combustion
If the combustion of a mixture of dust and air is confined, the
resulting hot combustion gases can generate very high pressures.
Typically, the pressures resulting from dust/air explosions are near
100 pounds per square inch. Such pressures can rupture equipment,
destroy walls and ceilings of rooms, severely damage walls and roofs of
buildings, and threaten personnel.
Preventing confined combustion of dust/air mixtures can be
accomplished by installing explosion vents on equipment that could
contain explosible mixtures. The size of the required explosion vent
depends primarily on the volume of the equipment--or room, or
building--and the ability of the equipment--or room or building--to
withstand internal pressure, and the speed of the combustion reaction.
preventing explosive combustion of dust/air mixtures
There are several methods for preventing damaging dust explosions,
in addition to the explosion-venting described above.
In one method, the oxidant (the oxygen in air) can be removed from
processing equipment through the use of an inert gas (such as nitrogen
or carbon dioxide) to purge the air from the equipment. For many dusts,
reducing the oxygen concentration by about one-half prevents
propagating combustion. However, the oxygen concentration must be
reduced much further for some metal dusts (such as aluminum and
Another method utilizes an inert powder or mist to quench or
suppress the combustion, such that the combustion pressure is limited
to a few percent of the unsuppressed explosion pressure. Discharge of
the suppressant can be triggered by flame detectors or the small
pressure increase that signals the beginning of combustion.
A third method involves constructing the process equipment to
withstand the maximum pressure that could be developed by a dust/air
explosion; thus, ``containing'' the explosion. This method is used
infrequently, due to the cost of constructing equipment to withstand
the high pressures attained by dust/air explosions.
A fourth method involves ``combustible concentration reduction,''
by preventing the formation of large high-concentration dust clouds.
This is accomplished by providing local exhaust ventilation at
equipment openings where dust is generated or released, with the
objective of reducing the concentration below one-quarter of the MEC.
For flammable gases and vapors, floor-level exhaust ventilation and
general area ventilation (with wall and roof fans) are very effective
in diluting flammable vapors and preventing the formation of large
explosible clouds; however, dilution ventilation is not very effective
for dusts, since particles can settle on surfaces that are outside the
areas that are swept by the entering and exiting air stream.
Unfortunately, this fourth method--preventing the formation of
small-particle dust clouds having high concentrations--cannot be used
reliably within process equipment because of the variability of powder-
handling processes. For example, attrition and grinding of coarse
powders during handling, mixing or blending, and conveying usually
results in formation of more-hazardous small-particle dusts.
However, use of this fourth method--combustible concentration
reduction--is important in preventing secondary explosions within rooms
and buildings. Frequent inspections of areas where combustible dust can
accumulate, and frequent removal of accumulated dust--thus, ``good
housekeeping''--can minimize the secondary-
When combustion of a small dense dust cloud occurs in an unconfined
space, the result can be a flash-fire, often without pressure effects.
Although persons outside the flash-fire might not be seriously
affected, persons inside the flash-fire are at risk of serious injury,
particularly if they are wearing combustible clothing. Thus, persons
who handle dusty and combustible powders--or are otherwise exposed to
flash-fire hazards--should be wearing flame-resistant clothing.
suggestions for prescriptive and/or performance-based legislation
There are several existing ``models'' for control of combustible-
dust hazards, ranging from the ``simple and non-specific'' General Duty
Clause, to the ``all-inclusive'' recent legislation of the State of
1. General Duty Clause Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and
Health Act of 1970
``Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment
and a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that
are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to
The General Duty Clause is often used by OSHA when there is no
specific standard that applies to a recognized hazard in the workplace.
OSHA may also use the General Duty Clause when a standard exists, but
it is clear that the hazards involved warrant additional precautions
beyond what the current safety standards require [Reference 2].
Other OSHA standards that can be referenced as a ``general duty''
in citations are 29 CFR 1910.22:
``(a) Housekeeping. All places of employment, passageways,
storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a
and 29 CFR 1910.176:
''(c) Housekeeping. Storage areas shall be kept free from
accumulation of materials that constitute hazards from tripping, fire,
explosion, or pest harborage.''
and 29 CFR 1910.307:
``(a) Scope. This section covers the requirements for electric
equipment and wiring in locations which are classified depending on the
properties of the flammable vapors, liquids or gases, or combustible
dusts or fibers which may be present therein and the likelihood that a
flammable or combustible concentration of quantity is present.
Hazardous (classified) locations may be found in occupancies such as,
but not limited to, the following: . . . agricultural or other
facilities where excessive combustible dusts may be present, . . .''
These ``general duty'' requirements provide very limited guidance
to owners/operators who generate or handle combustible dusts. For
example, the housekeeping standards do not address the need for
preventing and removing accumulations of dusts on elevated surfaces,
and the electrical standard does not address other types of ignition
sources, such as hot surfaces and static electricity--outside or inside
equipment--and open flames or welding sparks.
2. OSHA Process Safety Management Standard 29 CFR 1910.119
``Purpose. This section contains requirements for preventing or
minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic,
reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals. These releases may result
in toxic, fire or explosion hazards.''
``Application. (1) This section applies to the following: . . . .''
Combustible dusts are not included in the scope of this section,
but at least six of the listed chemicals are solids at room temperature
and could form explosible dusts. This standard provides good guidance
concerning 14 aspects of process safety, and all could be applied to
control of combustible-dust hazards.
3. OSHA Grain Handling Facilities Standard 29 CFR 1910.272
``Scope. This section contains requirements for the control of
grain dust fires and explosions, and certain other safety hazards
associated with grain handling facilities.''
``Application. Paragraphs (a) through (n) of this section apply to
grain elevators, feed mills, flour mills, rice mills, dust palletizing
plants, dry corn mills, soybean flaking operations, and the dry
grinding operations of soy cake.''
This standard is limited to control of hazards in grain operations,
but could be modified to serve as guidance for control of combustible-
dust hazards, generally.
4. NFPA 654, ``Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions
From the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible
``Scope. This standard shall apply to all phases of the
manufacturing, processing, blending, pneumatic conveying, repackaging,
and handling of combustible particulate solids or hybrid mixtures,
regardless of concentration or particle size, where the materials
present a fire or explosion hazard.'' [This standard excludes--but
references--the following similar standards: NFPA 61 (Food Processing
Facilities); NFPA 484 (Combustible Metals); NFPA 655 (Sulfur); and NFPA
664 (Woodworking Facilities).]
These standards contain both prescriptive and performance-based
recommendations concerning the typical operations and equipment in
dust-generating and dust-handling processes. Alternative approaches to
hazard control are offered in ``performance-based design options'' of
NFPA 654 and NFPA 664.
5. Factory Mutual Engineering Corp., Property Loss Prevention Data
Sheets 7-76, ``Prevention and Mitigation of Combustible Dust
Explosions and Fires'' (2000).
``Scope. This data sheet provides preventive measures to reduce the
frequency of combustible dust explosions, and protection features to
minimize damage from a combustible dust explosion.''
This document references NFPA publications but provides much more
prescriptive and quantitative guidance concerning dust-explosion
prevention and mitigation.
6. Georgia Rules and Regulations of the Safety Fire Commissioner
``Promulgation and Purpose: A primary purpose of these rules and
regulations is to establish the State minimum fire safety standards and
requirements for the prevention of loss of life and property from fire
and explosions in facilities that have operations involving the
manufacturing, processing, and/or handling combustible particulate
solids including manufacturing processes that create combustible
This document lists 76 NFPA Codes and Standards, but (perhaps
inadvertently) omits NFPA 499, ``Recommended Practice for the
Classification of Combustible Dusts and of Hazardous (Classified)
Locations for Electrical Installations in Chemical Process Areas.'' New
subsections have been added to several of the referenced Codes and
Standards to change a recommended practice to ``Facilities . . . shall
comply with this standard as a mandatory requirement.''
Thus, at the present time, there exist several legislated and
guidance documents that could serve as models for Federal rules for
dust-hazard controls. The attached document illustrates how the Grain-
Dust standard could be modified for combustible dusts in general.
However, it is likely that further modifications would be needed to
cover the wide range of dusts that are encountered in U.S. industries,
which include coal, pharmaceuticals, plastics, basic chemicals,
explosives, and many other combustible materials, in addition to
foodstuffs and grains.
key points in the prevention of combustible-dust explosions
A. The Problem
1. A very high percentage of dusts are combustible, including solid
hydrocarbons (such as polyethylene and polystyrene), carbohydrates
(such as sugar and grains), and many metals (such as magnesium and
aluminum); exceptions are materials such as dirt and clay dust, sand,
limestone and other carbonates, and most oxides.
2. Every combustible material will create an explosion with the
right conditions: particle size [fuel], dispersion in air,
concentration in air [oxidant], ignition energy, and confinement [thus,
the ``dust-explosion pentagon'' ].
3. Existing today are: the technology and knowledge; codes,
standards, and guidelines; and engineering expertise that are needed to
prevent and mitigate combustible-dust explosions.
4. Limited generic data are available concerning the properties of
combustible dusts; data for the specific powders and dusts that are
involved in the processes of owners/operators usually need to be
developed, primarily through testing.
5. At present, there apparently is very-modest enforcement of the
consensus codes and standards that apply to combustible dusts, although
all 50 States ``administer'' the International Building Code [http://
jpg]. The IBC includes the requirements of the predecessor Uniform
Building Code, the BOCA Building Code, and the Southern Building Code.
As such, there are extensive requirements for explosion prevention and
mitigation for combustible dusts. Similarly, 25 States have adopted the
International Fire Code [IFC], and municipalities in an additional 16
States have adopted parts or all of the IFC [http://www.iccsafe.org/
images/pmg/map-IFC.jpg], although there is limited specific guidance
for control of dust-explosion hazards in the IFC.
6. The National Fire Protection Association has published
compilations of several of the Fire Codes, in NFPA 1 [Uniform Fire
Code] and NFPA 5000 [Building Construction and Safety Code]. Relatively
few States and municipalities have formally adopted these more-recent
B. The Solution
1. Companies that produce, process, or handle dusts and powders
need to generate data concerning the explosibility properties of their
2. The data that are obtained by these companies should be formally
communicated within their organizations and to their customers via
media such as Material Safety Data Sheets.
3. Using the explosion-hazards data, owners/operators should assess
the hazards that are associated with processes that are operating in
4. Based on the dust-explosion hazards assessments, owners/
operators should implement preventive and explosion-mitigating measures
that will protect personnel and property.
5. An objective of the proposed Federal legislation should be to
require owners/operators to adopt and abide by the above guidance
toward solution of the existing dust-explosion ``problem.''
Combustible powders and dusts present significant hazards, but the
risk of injury and/or property loss can be controlled by ``recognized
and generally-accepted good engineering practices'', as expressed in
existing Codes and Standards. The owners/operators of facilities that
generate or handle such materials should be expected to recognize dust-
explosion and flash-fire hazards in their operations and minimize the
risk of such incidents, for protection of their employees. Several
models of prescriptive and performance-based methods for control of
combustible-dust hazards are available and are in use in many
industries; these models could serve as the basis for appropriate
1. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, ``Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program'' [re-
issued], CPL 03-00-008 (March 11, 2008).
2. J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc., ``OSHA Compliance Manual'', page
OSHA-25 (June 2006).
Senator Murray. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF GRAHAM H. GRAHAM, VICE PRESIDENT FOR OPERATIONS,
IMPERIAL SUGAR COMPANY, SUGARLAND, TX
Mr. Graham. Good morning. Madam Chair, Senator Chambliss,
Senator Isakson, Senator Brown, my name is Graham Harris
Graham. My counsel with me today is Philip Hilder.
At the committee's request, I will address my experience as
Vice President of Operations at Imperial Sugar Company. I will
focus on the conditions I witnessed at the Port Wentworth and
Gramercy Imperial Sugar facilities.
I will further address actions that I took and recommended
to abate unsafe working conditions, and for the record, I am
still employed as Vice President of Operations for the company.
If I can just give you a few moments of my background. In
1987, I graduated with a degree in electrical and electronics
engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow,
Scotland. I have multinational experience in civil industries,
including steel, pulp and paper, packaging, automation, and
food and drink. In recent years, I have helped turn around
distressed companies by improving their operations, efficiency,
and financial performance.
I began my current position in November 2007. As Vice
President of Operations, I am responsible for many areas in the
company, not limited to manufacturing, logistics, quality, and
customer service. Within a few weeks of joining the company, I
began to tour its facilities in Georgia and Louisiana. I spent
5 days walking through the 300-acre Port Wentworth, GA,
refinery in early December 2007.
The conditions were shocking. It was, without doubt, the
dirtiest and most dangerous manufacturing plant I had ever come
to. The refinery was littered with discarded materials, piles
of sugar dust, puddles of liquid sugar, airborne sugar dust.
Electric motors and controls were encrusted with solidified
sugar. Electrical safety covers and doors were missing from
live electrical switch gear panels, and a combustible
environment certainly existed.
Fire protection equipment was sheathed in dust so thick it
was impossible to determine if it was operable. Fire huts,
faded in the sun, stored rotting fire hoses. Fire hoses, fire
extinguishers had not been checked in recent years, and
employees could not remember the last time they participated in
a fire drill or had hands-on fire fighting experience.
Due to these dangerous conditions, I recommended firing the
plant manager. Mr. Sheptor, the Chief Operating Officer at the
time, and Ms. Hastings, Senior Vice President of HR, agreed
with my recommendation.
After firing the plant manager, I instructed the operations
manager at Port Wentworth to identify all known safety
violations, initiate a housekeeping blitz, and begin a site-
wide cleanup. I sent Mr. Sheptor and Mr. Robert Peiser,
Imperial Sugar's Chief Executive Officer at the time, a
bulleted list of my observations, recommendations, and actions.
The following week, I spent 5 days at the Gramercy, LA,
refinery. I found the same problems--accumulations of sugar,
sugar dust, airborne sugar dust, unlocked electrical rooms,
missing safety apparatus, to name but a few. At the end of the
week, I sent another bulleted list to Mr. Sheptor and Mr.
Peiser regarding my findings there.
In mid-January, I was called to a formal meeting with Mr.
Sheptor and Ms. Hastings. During that meeting, I was told I was
too passionate. An employee had complained about language I had
used caused by a near slip and fall caused by the disgraceful
conditions on the ground floor of the refinery. I was accused
of ruining the Chief Operating Officer's relationship with the
plant. I was instructed to make a peace offering to the
management teams at Port Wentworth and Gramercy.
I departed that meeting disappointed and confused. I went
back to Port Wentworth 2 weeks later or 2 weeks--I am sorry--
before the explosion. Housekeeping efforts had certainly
improved. They couldn't get any worse. Port Wentworth safety
coordinators had, under my direction, identified over 400
safety violations since my previous visit.
During a meeting with the management team there, I
congratulated them on the progress. However, the job was not
done. I reminded the management team of the November 2007
Domino Sugar explosion, which was caused by accumulated sugar
dust. I also used the Texas City BP explosion, where workers
were killed, to stress the consequences of a fatal explosion to
Imperial, the workers, and their families. Safety and
housekeeping had to be the No. 1 priority.
The next day I went to the Gramercy facility. Gramercy's
management team achieved similar improvements. There were still
many, many issues to address, especially those related to
accumulated sugar, sugar dust, and other critical safety-
As with my previous visits, I sent Mr. Sheptor and Mr.
Peiser summaries of my observations, actions, and my expressed
concern for the employees' safety, especially those at Port
Wentworth. I said that I believed a fatal disaster would befall
the refinery if a fundamental change in the way the plant was
being operated did not take place.
On the evening of Thursday, February 7, I took a phone call
and was informed that the refinery at Port Wentworth had
exploded. I flew to Georgia the next day and spent a week
observing the fires being put out, watching bodies being
recovered from the charred remains.
Tony Thomas, one of the managers I had met previously 2
weeks earlier, was the last body to be recovered from the site.
Over the next few weeks, I attended funerals for those that
died in the explosion.
Since the explosion, I have not participated in senior
management teams or discussions regarding the disaster, the
recovery, the investigation, or the reconstruction. Rather, Mr.
Sheptor tasked me with addressing Gramercy deficiencies and
At Gramercy, I overhauled the safety culture, systems,
processes, and procedures, led a massive housekeeping blitz,
corrected hundreds of safety defects, initiated monthly fire
drills, and developed and practiced an emergency evacuation
plan. In March, I assisted OSHA during its inspection of the
refinery and promptly corrected more violations and infractions
as they came to light.
I intend to fully cooperate with this committee. I welcome
the opportunity to answer any questions the Senators may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Graham follows:]
Prepared Statement of Graham Harris Graham
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members. I am Graham
Harris Graham. My counsel, with me today, is Philip Hilder. At the
committee's request, I will address my experiences as Vice President of
Operations at Imperial Sugar Company and focus on the conditions that I
witnessed at the Port Wentworth and Gramercy Imperial Sugar facilities.
I will further address description of any actions that I recommended to
abate unsafe work conditions. I am still employed as the Vice President
of Operations for the Imperial Sugar Company.
By way of background, in 1987 I graduated with a degree in
electrical and electronics engineering from, University of Strathclyde,
in Glasgow, Scotland. I have multi-national experience in several
different industries, including steel, pulp & paper, packaging,
automation and food & drink. In more recent years, I have helped turn
around distressed companies by improving their operations, efficiency,
and financial performance.
I began my current position in November 2007. As Vice President of
Operations, I am responsible for many areas within the company,
including manufacturing, logistics, quality and customer service.
Within a few weeks of joining Imperial's upper management team, I began
touring its facilities in Georgia and Louisiana.
I spent five (5) days walking through the 300 acre Port Wentworth,
Georgia refinery in early December 2007; the conditions were shocking.
Port Wentworth was a dirty and dangerous facility. The refinery was
littered with discarded materials, piles of sugar dust, puddles of
liquid sugar and airborne sugar dust. Electrical motors and controls
were encrusted with solidified sugar, while safety covers and doors
were missing from live electrical switchgear and panels. A combustible
Fire protection equipment was sheathed in dust so thick it was
impossible to determine if it was operable. Fire fighting huts, in
faded, red paint, stored rotting hoses, fire extinguishers had not been
checked in recent years, and employees could not remember the last time
they participated in a fire drill or fire fighting training.
Due to the dangerous conditions, customs and practices, I
recommended firing the plant manager. Mr. John Sheptor, the Chief
Operating Officer at the time, and Ms. Kay Hastings, the Senior Vice
President of Human Resources, agreed with my recommendation. After
firing the plant manager, I instructed the Operations Manager to
identify safety violations, initiate a housekeeping blitz and begin a
site-wide clean up. I sent Mr. Sheptor and Mr. Robert Peiser,
Imperial's Chief Executive Officer, a bulleted list of my observations
The following week I spent five (5) days at the Gramercy, Louisiana
refinery. I found similar problems; accumulations of sugar, sugar dust,
airborne sugar, unlocked electrical rooms and missing safety apparatus,
to name a few. I sent another bulleted list to Mr. Sheptor and Mr.
Peiser regarding my findings at Gramercy.
In mid-January, I was called to a formal meeting with Mr. Sheptor
and Ms. Hastings. During that meeting, I was told an employee
complained about language I used after a near slip and fall that I had
while walking through Port Wentworth's basement. I was also informed
that I was excessively eager in addressing the refinery's problems. Mr.
Sheptor accused me of ruining his 11-month relationship with Port
Wentworth's management team, which he supposedly developed after two
site visits. I was further instructed to make a peace offering to
management at Port Wentworth and Gramercy.
I visited Port Wentworth approximately 2 weeks before the
explosion. Housekeeping efforts were much improved. Port Wentworth's
Safety Coordinators had identified over 400 safety violations since
December. During a meeting I congratulated the management team on their
efforts; however, there was still a long way to go. I reminded the
management team of the November 2007 Domino Sugar explosion, which was
caused by accumulated sugar dust. I also used the Texas City BP
explosion where several workers were killed to stress the consequences
of a fatal explosion to Imperial, the workers, and their families.
Safety and housekeeping had to be a priority.
The next day I went to the Gramercy Plant. Gramercy's management
team achieved similar improvements, but there were still issues to
address, especially those related to accumulated sugar, sugar dust, and
other critical safety-related matters. As with my prior visits, I sent
Mr. Sheptor and Mr. Peiser summaries of my observations and expressed
concerns for the employees' safety, especially those at Port Wentworth.
On the evening of Thursday, February 7, I was informed of the Port
Wentworth explosion. I flew to Georgia the next day and spent a week
observing the fires being put out and watching bodies being recovered
from Port Wentworth's charred remains. Tony Thomas, one of the managers
I met with 2 weeks earlier, was the last body recovered from the site.
Over the next few weeks, I attended funerals for those that died in the
Since Port Wentworth's explosion, I have not participated in senior
management team meetings and/or discussions regarding the disaster, the
recovery, the investigation or the reconstruction. Rather, Mr. Sheptor
tasked me with addressing Gramercy's deficiencies. At Gramercy, I
overhauled the safety culture, systems, processes and procedures; led a
massive housekeeping blitz; corrected hundreds of safety defects,
initiated monthly fire drills; and developed and practiced an emergency
evacuation plan. In March, I assisted OSHA during it's inspection of
the refinery, promptly correcting violations and infractions.
I intend to fully cooperate with this committee and welcome the
opportunity to answer any questions that the Senators may have.
Senator Murray. Thank you very much to all of you for your
Mr. Graham, let me talk to you first. During Mr. Bresland's
testimony, we saw pictures of dust accumulation at the Imperial
Sugar plant at Port Wentworth. They are still in front of us. I
don't know if you can see them here, but it looks like several
feet of dust. Is this representative of the conditions that you
saw prior to the explosion?
Mr. Graham. Sugar and sugar dust, depending on which area I
visited, was either ankle, knee, or waist deep.
Senator Murray. Say that again. Ankle?
Mr. Graham. Ankle, waist--ankle, knee, and waist deep.
Senator Murray. You saw sugar up to waist deep?
Mr. Graham. Yes, ma'am.
Senator Murray. How do you think the quantity of
accumulated sugar and airborne dust contributed then to Port
Wentworth's explosion, in your opinion?
Mr. Graham. Well, the more fuel in the environment and the
more fuel that had the potential to become airborne, clearly
contributed significantly to the detonation when the dust
Senator Murray. I assume it would take a while for waist
deep dust to accumulate?
Mr. Graham. That would be the intuitive thought. In actual
fact, due to the quantities of sugar being manufactured and due
to the deficiencies in the apparatus, it would surprise one how
quickly several thousand pounds of sugar and sugar dust could
accumulate inside the refineries.
Senator Murray. If there is, as you say, deficiencies in
apparatus, then something is blowing it out the wrong way, and
it is accumulating fairly quickly?
Mr. Graham. Well, there is about six key areas or systems
that need to be in place in order to protect the building, the
apparatus, and the people working inside. You need to have a
regular, frequent, and thorough housekeeping policy in place so
that the dust, if it accumulates, is removed.
You need effective plant maintenance schedules to make sure
the apparatus is dust tight and prevent sugar dust from getting
into the general work environment.
The electrical and mechanical apparatus needs to be
installed in compliance with the NFPA codes of which there are
many that accurately describe the standard the apparatus needs
to be not only designed, but installed to minimize or eliminate
the risk of an ignition source and the potentially hazardous
You need sufficient ventilation in the unlikely event,
after doing all of that, should dust get into the environment,
ventilation will take that out of the environment and push it
into the general outside atmosphere.
You need fire and explosion suppression systems installed
in those hazardous environments, should all of those safety
measures fail, to prevent an ignition source from propagating
and causing further destruction.
Last, but not least, the employees, managers, and operators
of the refinery need to have an effective evacuation plan,
should all of the five previous systems fail.
Senator Murray. Well, we have seen references that you
warned other Imperial managers about the conditions at the
plants. What you just listed out, many of those were not being
done. My understanding is you warned other Imperial managers
about the conditions. We have seen the e-mails released between
you and the Imperial Sugar CEO Mr. Sheptor about your concerns
prior to the explosion on February 7.
Do you think the plant managers properly addressed the
concerns you identified about the conditions that you observed?
Mr. Graham. You have to remember, I had just started in
November. My first visit to the plants was in early December.
That is 8 weeks before the explosion. Such was the quantity and
severity of the problems that I uncovered on each subsequent
visit, I don't think it was possible in 8 weeks to solve all of
Senator Murray. During any of the meetings or
correspondence that you had with Imperial Sugar, did you warn
them about the dangers in the amount of dust that you saw at
Mr. Graham. Absolutely.
Senator Murray. What type of reception did you get to those
Mr. Graham. I had a collective meeting with the management
team at Port Wentworth in the middle of January. I had
approximately 18 people in the room, and I told them quite
categorically that some of them would probably not be coming
home soon because they would be at the city morgue due to the
potential explosive properties that we all found ourselves
working amongst, due to the excessive volume of dust and,
indeed, other hazards that I had identified during my visit
Senator Murray. You believe that they understood the
magnitude of what you were explaining to them?
Mr. Graham. I suspect that some of them had never been told
that before. Some of them have been told but have become so
accustomed to working in such conditions, they have become
normalized to it.
Senator Murray. Do you believe they were taking your
warnings seriously at that time?
Mr. Graham. After I fired the plant manager, I appointed an
interim plant manager, and that individual had started also in
November 2007. And he clearly got it.
They did, indeed, remove thousands of pounds of sugar in
the environment. Unfortunately, due to the very short time
constraint, it was clearly not possible to put in all of the
systems that I previously described in such a way that it would
have mitigated this disaster in just the short space of 8
Senator Murray. Well, thank you very much.
Senator Isakson. Thank you, Chair Murray.
Mr. Prugh, as a professional trained in this science, how
long has it been your knowledge that sugar dust would explode?
How long have you known that?
Mr. Prugh. This goes back to the original statement that
all combustible materials can explode if they are divided
sufficiently, all combustible materials.
Senator Isakson. Following up on that question, Ms.
Spencer, you said you don't have to reinvent the wheel here to
test for properties, and then you went to refer to NFPA 654,
which is your comprehensive series of rules, regulations, and
findings and, I guess, test results on combustible particulate
solids. Is that correct?
Ms. Spencer. It is our fundamentals of dust document. Yes,
Senator Isakson. Your reference to not re-creating the
wheel, I mean, I think you were referring to OSHA and Mr.
Foulke's statement is that if 654 were incorporated as the
combustible dust standard, it would be sufficient on its own.
Was that a fair understanding?
Ms. Spencer. Senator Isakson, the NFPA 654 addressed the
fundamentals of dust, and there has been a lot of talk today
about there are so many different types of dust that could be a
problem. It isn't just sugar dust, and I think we all have an
understanding of that now. NFPA 654 provides all the
fundamental basic requirements that you would need to prevent a
Then we have other documents that if you have a specialized
kind of dust, like a combustible metal, we have additional
requirements on top of the fundamental requirements. Where
there are special needs of a different type of particulate, we
have other documents to address that--sulfur, coal, combustible
metals, agricultural dust, and wood dust.
Senator Isakson. Do you have a commodity-specific dust
document with regard to sugar?
Ms. Spencer. Sugar would be covered under NFPA 61, which
covers all agricultural dust, and specifically sugar is noted
in the document.
Senator Isakson. Agricultural dust is common enough to
where the properties would be about the same for all of them?
Ms. Spencer. Absolutely. There are different properties, as
Mr. Bresland alluded to earlier, that would make one dust more
hazardous than another, and that is discussed quite a bit in
Senator Isakson. Mr. Graham, how long have you known that
sugar dust was explosive?
Mr. Graham. From the age of 16. It was common in Scottish
schools to conduct sugar and starch dust experiments to
demonstrate the energy contained within that carbohydrate and
to show the explosive properties of such materials. I have
worked in other industries, such as the paper industry, and
have seen it firsthand the consequences of fires caused by
excessive accumulations of paper dust.
Senator Isakson. You were hired in November 2007?
Mr. Graham. Yes, sir.
Senator Isakson. Is that correct? And the explosion in
Baltimore was 2007?
Mr. Graham. About 2 weeks before I started.
Senator Isakson. Two weeks before. In your resume, you have
done extensive turnaround work in other industries. Is that
Mr. Graham. Yes. Yes.
Senator Isakson. Out of curiosity, did you respond to an
advertisement, or were you sought out when you were employed?
How did you come to this job?
Mr. Graham. I was living in Las Vegas at the time and had
spent nearly 4 years doing turnaround work. The travel is quite
extensive. I had flown 300,000 miles last year.
Senator Isakson. Did you seek the job out, or did they seek
Mr. Graham. No, I sought out this company. I had multiple
different opportunities I was exploring, and I de-selected all
of those to arrive at this one.
Senator Isakson. OK. When you were trained in Scotland in
electrical engineering, do you recall any--during that training
talking about the explosive properties of dust in manufacturing
and the cause that electricity could be to an accelerant?
Mr. Graham. No, the education for electrical engineering at
university level is purely on the mathematics and the
philosophy of electricity and the control of it and how it is
distributed. The environmental impact of dusts coming into
contact with potential sources of combustion is an experience
learned through work.
Senator Isakson. Based on your knowledge, yourself and the
job responsibility that you had, when you did the inspections,
the standards that you applied to make the recommendations for
what needed to be done to improve the safety were standards
based on your own knowledge. Is that correct?
Mr. Graham. Based upon my knowledge and references to
existing code that currently resides in NFPA 654, the National
Electrical Code, which none of them are rocket science. They
have been around for decades, and those are standard--commonly
referred to standards for any installer or designer of
Senator Isakson. Which I guess takes us all the way back to
the general duty standard that OSHA applied in the citations
they made at Port Wentworth and at Gramercy?
Mr. Graham. Yes, I have still to read the whole citation
because of its enormity, but I will be spending the rest of
this week at Gramercy, for example, getting to grips exactly
what the inferences are there.
Senator Isakson. We thank all of you for testifying.
Mr. Graham. Thank you.
Senator Murray. Senator Chambliss.
Senator Chambliss. Mr. Prugh, is there anyway to
manufacture sugar the way it was being manufactured at Port
Wentworth without creating dust?
Mr. Prugh. A principle of dust explosion prevention is
containment. If you can design equipment to contain sugar
powder, sugar dust, then there wouldn't be that kind of a
Senator Chambliss. Well, my question is in the manufacture
of certain products, you are going to have dust?
Mr. Prugh. Yes.
Senator Chambliss. The issue is how do you control it? Can
you design an exhaust system or a ventilation system of some
sort that should remove dust from a facility like a sugar
manufacturing plant that will get it below that minimum
standard you referred to for making it combustible?
Mr. Prugh. If containment is difficult for some reason,
then you can provide what is called local exhaust ventilation,
some sort of an elephant trunk or other device that will suck
dust away from the point where it is being released.
Senator Chambliss. OK. Mr. Graham, when you were hired by
Imperial Sugar, what was your job description as was given to
Mr. Graham. My job description was primarily to run the
operations of the two refineries at Gramercy and Port
Wentworth, a sugar re-melt station in Ludlow, KY, to oversee
production, efficiency, output, as well as customer service,
quality, distribution, logistics, and also keep track of normal
manufacturing costs--labor, overhead, etc.
Senator Chambliss. Well, I am looking at your statement
here, on page 1, you say, ``As Vice President of Operations, I
am responsible for many areas within the company, including
safety and quality control.'' Were you the chief safety
operator or, excuse me, chief safety official of Imperial Sugar
Company, in your opinion?
Mr. Graham. No, sir. The company appointed or had appointed
for some time a corporate safety manager, who has a staff of
people at both plants. That function did not report to me when
I joined the company.
Senator Chambliss. Well, why do you say you were
responsible for safety? I am reading your statement here.
Mr. Graham. Every employee, every manager, every supervisor
in any company I have ever worked for all contribute to the
safety of the work environment. The corporate safety function
is typically a function that provides policies and procedures
with which the managers, supervisors, and employees execute. My
job was to execute, where possible, to the best of my ability
those policies and procedures.
Senator Chambliss. You went into the Port Wentworth plant
in December, found any number of egregious violations, which
you referred to as ``shocking. The facility was dirty and
dangerous.'' You then made certain recommendations to
management, recommendations including firing the plant manager,
Mr. Graham. Yes, sir.
Senator Chambliss. What action was taken?
Mr. Graham. He was fired.
Senator Chambliss. You made recommendations for any number
of safety violation corrections. What action was taken based
Mr. Graham. Even though the safety function did not report
to me, I superseded the authority of the people in that
department and instructed them to work with every functional
manager at the refinery and immediately that day--starting that
very day--to go into the refinery in every area, identify every
known hazard due to electrical covers being exposed, insulation
missing from steam pipes, safety barriers missing, guardrails
missing, including obviously the housekeeping, and instructed
those people to identify what they were, take immediate
responsive action to either eliminate the risk or mitigate
until such time they had the resources to fix it.
Senator Chambliss. Did they act on your recommendation
Mr. Graham. Yes, sir, because when I came back----
Senator Chambliss. Now I hear you. I think you have already
Now, you had this meeting with employees at the Port
Wentworth plant in which you, Mr. Graham, having gone into this
facility, having identified a shocking and dangerous facility
at Port Wentworth, you made recommendations to the company
which they followed. You told these folks that if they didn't
take some corrective action immediately, according to your
words, some of these folks wouldn't be back, they would be in a
Why didn't you, Mr. Graham, go to the management of
Imperial Sugar Company and say, ``By golly, if you don't shut
this plant down now and clean this up, you are going to have a
dangerous situation to occur,'' which did occur 2 weeks after
you said you made that statement? Why didn't you do that?
Mr. Graham. I did do that. I told Mr. Sheptor that I was
surprised that we hadn't killed anybody already because the
plants were so dangerous. I was told that my passion was
extreme and I had to temper it. I was told to prepare a board
presentation for the end of January, during which I was going
to recommend asking for a significant change in the way we
operated the plant, and I was prevented from doing so.
Senator Chambliss. Well, Mr. Graham, here we are 6 months
almost after the incident occurred, and you are still working
for the same company that you said you gave that kind of
mandate to? It gives me cause to question your sincerity in
what you have had to say about this.
This has been a very emotional, tragic situation that
occurred in south Georgia and is one in which we want to get to
the bottom of, obviously, from the standpoint of what happened.
The ultimate result needs to be safety measures put in.
I respect what you say about the fact that you made
recommendations to them, but I really have cause to question
your sincerity in that. Because if you were, I can't imagine
after what did happen and you say you made the statements you
did, why are you still working for this company?
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Senator Murray. Well, Senator Chambliss, I appreciate your
Mr. Graham, I do appreciate your coming and speaking today,
and I think it is fair for you to be able to respond to those
questions, and I would give you that opportunity.
Mr. Graham. Well, thank you. All of the conditions I
described pre-existed my appointment. My objective today was to
bring forth the facts laid out before me so that we can
collectively decide what needs to be done to prevent this sort
of tragedy happening again.
The employees of both refineries and, indeed, in the
industry deserve a safe working environment. The reason I am
still there is because I believe I can continue to contribute
to achieving that goal, and I will be taking OSHA's findings
and moving forward to continue fixing the deficiencies so that
we can put these people into an environment which they know is
safe and clean. I will continue to work on that over the next
Senator Murray. Thank you very much.
Mr. Prugh, can I go back to you? You said that OSHA's
housekeeping standards are insufficient to address the dust
standard and that the general duty standard is not specific.
Doesn't that mean that we need a dust specific OSHA standard,
in your opinion, to ensure employees know what they need to do
to prevent explosions?
Mr. Prugh. Yes, some additional standard is needed. The
process safety management standard is a good standard, and it
could be a good model for a dust explosion prevention standard.
Senator Murray. Ms. Spencer, the pile of paper on the end
of the desk here was referred to several times as, if we
adopted a standard, we would have to review all of that. You
referenced it in your testimony. If OSHA were to adopt a
standard, would you or would NFPA provide assistance to non-
NFPA adopting States to work their way through all that paper?
Ms. Spencer. NFPA's record on code assistance is incredibly
well established, and the assistance that we would provide, as
I see it, are in three general areas. First, for the enforcers,
and that would include authorities having jurisdiction, State
fire marshals, and others.
And specifically, with respect to dust--I am not even
talking about all the other hundreds of assistance courses or
meetings that we have had with enforcers. Just regarding dust,
we have met with enforcers in Kentucky after the CTA Acoustics
explosion to educate them about the hazards of dust. We have
met with authorities having jurisdiction in Massachusetts, and
that was a proactive. They wanted to learn about the
combustible dust hazards.
Most recently, we did a 2-day training seminar at the
request of the Georgia State fire marshal at the Georgia Fire
Safety Symposium, where we taught about 100 State fire marshals
about the hazards of dust. Would we assist with non-NFPA
States? Georgia is a non-NFPA-1 adopting State. I think our
record on that is clear.
Additionally, NFPA committee members are training OSHA
compliance officers. NFPA has worked extensively with OSHA on
numerous projects, including dust. We have OSHA members on many
of our committees, and we assisted with reviewing their Safety
and Health Information Bulletin. We have trained OSHA
compliance officers on electrical issues relating to 70(e).
With respect to industry, a lot of these places where we go
to talk to enforcers, they invite the local industries in to
come and learn about dust as well, and that was the case in
Georgia. We also have seminars, as well as contract seminars
Senator Murray. So you do provide that training?
Ms. Spencer. We do.
Senator Murray. Yes, and let me ask you one other quick
question that I want to understand myself. We have heard some
concerns that the OSHA dust standards won't work because a
single rule can't cover all the different materials. Is that
concern that the NFPA standard is a one-size-fits-all, or does
NFPA have the capability to look at this in terms of the
different levels of concern?
Ms. Spencer. Senator Murray, I believe that with the
adoption of NFPA 654, it does reference the other special
hazards with the other special commodities that I mentioned,
such as dust and combustible metals.
Senator Murray. So you can deal with a variety of
Ms. Spencer. It absolutely will cover a variety of
Senator Murray. OK. Mr. Graham, let me ask you, in your
time at Imperial, are you aware of any training provided to
management or workers about potential dust dangers? Was there
Mr. Graham. Currently, right now, in fact, in a few days,
we should have completed a training program on the OSHA
National Emphasis Program for the employees at Gramercy in
particular. That should be completed by----
Senator Murray. Was there any training prior to that
explosion, was there any training being done on dust standards?
Mr. Graham. I can only speak from the moment that I
started, which was in the middle of November. I am not aware
that any specific training programs were in place at that time.
There may have been before I joined, and I can't say that is
the case or not.
Senator Murray. But, you are now putting together a
Mr. Graham. We have already educated the employees at
Gramercy actually several months ago on a very short refresher
course. We took Mr. Foulke's advice and retrained the people
using his National Emphasis Program on combustible dust. Every
employee at that refinery should be re-educated by the end of
Senator Murray. OK. One final question for you. Were you
aware of anyone else who expressed concerns to management about
the conditions at the plant?
Mr. Graham. I can't obviously speak for the actions of
other people. It was certainly expressed to me by my operations
manager at Port Wentworth because he was a new employee
himself, and he was certainly alarmed, which is why he was
effective at getting rid of a lot of the housekeeping problems.
Unfortunately, not enough to prevent this disaster.
Senator Murray. OK. Senator Isakson.
Senator Isakson. Ms. Spencer, did I hear you say Georgia
wasn't an NFPA State?
Ms. Spencer. It does not adopt NFPA-1. That is correct. It
adopts the International Fire Code.
Senator Isakson. Mr. Prugh, in your written testimony, you
cite Georgia's adoption of the NFPA standards.
Mr. Prugh. May I add to my previous comment?
Senator Isakson. Yes, you can.
Mr. Prugh. The Georgia rules and regulations of the safety
fire commissioner list 76 NFPA codes and standards, many with
the statement, concerning these recommendations of the NFPA,
``Facilities shall comply with the standards as a mandatory
requirement.'' They have said this about several of the NFPA
Senator Isakson. They have incorporated those 76 in their
standards within the Georgia law?
Mr. Prugh. Yes.
Senator Isakson. Is one of those 654?
Mr. Prugh. It is. Yes.
Senator Isakson. So Georgia has responded within the State
with regard to the explosive properties of dust?
Mr. Prugh. They have.
Senator Isakson. In so doing, they did so by adopting
NFPA's 76 different opines or rules?
Mr. Prugh. Yes.
Senator Isakson. OK. I have no further questions, Madam
Senator Murray. Thank you very much, Senator Isakson.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today.
Mr. Graham, I want you to know that your future employment is
of great interest to Senator Kennedy, who could not be here
today, as well as Senator Isakson and myself.
With that, I want everyone to know that the record for this
hearing will be open for 10 business days. We may have
additional questions that we would ask people to respond to.
Those will be submitted to you in writing.
And with that, this hearing of the subcommittee is
[Additional material follows.]
Prepared Statement of Senator Harkin
I thank our dedicated subcommittee Chair, Senator Murray,
for holding this critically important hearing today. It is
simply unacceptable that almost 2 years after receiving the
U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's (``CSB'')
eye-opening combustible dust hazard study, we still have no
standard for dust levels or remediation. Despite the fact that
this report describes hundreds of preventable injuries and
deaths every year, and the fact that the National Fire
Protection Association has already developed implementable
standards that would save lives and property in explosions, the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to
issue a proposed rule to specifically address these dust
At the time this report came out in 2006, I was shocked to
learn that my home State of Iowa was on the list of a handful
of States with 15 dust explosions during the period of the
report. I come from a State with a lot of agriculture. We saw a
steady increase in grain dust explosions in the 1970s and
1980s, so OSHA issued a standard for grain handling facilities.
As a result of something as simple as spraying water or mineral
oil on the grain to keep the dust down, fatalities from grain
dust explosions have decreased by 60 percent.
Unfortunately, as the CSB's report indicates, most workers
and their employers are not aware of the serious danger posed
by something as seemingly innocuous as dust. Anyone who has
tried to start a campfire in the woods knows, however, that big
logs are difficult to ignite, while smaller brambles are much
easier to burn, and can be used to light a larger fire. As
particles of any combustible or explosive substance get smaller
and smaller, the easier it is for them to catch fire. That
means small enough particles of almost anything can be
combustible under the right circumstances. And sometimes, the
explosion can start somewhere else, and ignite accumulated
Work place safety is an issue that I take very seriously.
My father worked for many years as a coal miner in one of the
dozens of coal mines that were located in south-central Iowa.
They knew all about coal dust, which is highly explosive. Of
course; it is a fuel source. We have come a long way since
those days, with the creation of OSHA and MSHA. But we have a
long way to go. In 2006 there were 5,700 workers killed on the
job in the United States. And every single day, 12,000 workers
become sick or are seriously injured at work. It's
heartbreaking to realize that often these tragedies were
completely preventable, but weren't in the name of higher
productivity and increased profits. Today's workers face longer
hours, intensification of work due to downsizing, increased
work pace and other changes in work technologies and work
processes. It's about time that we put that technology to work
to increase worker safety.
I thank our guests for coming to testify about this
critical issue today. I know that workers want a safe
environment, and employers could use a comprehensive standard
to clarify their obligations to keep their workers and their
facilities safe from these preventable fires and explosions.
Prepared Statement of Senator Clinton
It has been nearly four decades since the Occupational
Safety and Health Act was enacted into law. And while we have
made great strides in improving the safety of the working
environment for the Nation's workers, there is still a great
deal of improvement to be made. One area in particular where
there is an urgent need for action is the issue of combustible
Catastrophic explosions of dust have become all too common
in our Nation's factories. When materials in a factory are
ground into small enough particles and allowed to collect on
the floor in high concentrations and then dispersed into the
air, even a small spark can lead to devastating results. There
have been more than 300 combustible dust explosions in American
factories since 1980. More than 120 workers have been killed
and 800 workers injured due to combustible dust in factories
across the country.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
has failed to take the steps necessary to protect these
workers. According to one report, there were 67 dust explosions
in the last 2 years, and OSHA missed the problem in almost
every case, citing only a single factory for a dust hazard
prior to a blast. One retired OSHA inspector told 60 Minutes
that he had never received training on industrial dust, and
that he routinely ignored dust problems at factories in his
And even though the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard
Investigation Board issued a report almost 2 years ago finding
that combustible dust explosions are a ``serious hazard'' and
strongly recommending that OSHA issue safety standards that
would track the voluntary standards developed by the National
Fire Protection Association. However, OSHA has failed to issue
any such regulations. Decades ago, when grain elevators were
exploding at an alarming rate, OSHA issued safety standards
confined to the handling of grain dust. As a result, dust
explosions decreased by more than 40 percent, and fatalities
dropped by 60 percent.
Unfortunately, the reluctance of OSHA to act in this area
is only all too typical of the Department of Labor in this
Administration. The Administration has dragged its heels for
years on regulations not only for combustible dust, but also
cranes and derricks, personal protective gear, diacetyl, and
mine safety, to name just a few. OSHA has also consistently
failed to enforce the laws and regulations that are on the
books. And yet, in the closing months of the Administration,
political appointees have rushed to issue a secret rule sought
by the business community to make it more difficult to regulate
workers' exposure to chemicals and toxins.
Too many workers are dying unnecessarily. And yet we can
take concrete steps to address this problem. Earlier this year,
the House passed legislation that would require OSHA to act in
90 days to implement the recommendation that OSHA issue a dust
standard. The legislation awaits action in the Senate. An ever
growing chorus of experts, industry leaders, and newspapers are
urging OSHA to act to provide guidance on the hazards of
combustible dust. I pledge to work with my colleagues to add
Congress's voice to this chorus.
Prepared Statement of Senator Obama
I thank the Chair for holding this hearing and continuing
to demand that the Administration enforce the laws that protect
workers. In 2006, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard
Investigation Board (CSB) issued an investigative report
recommending that the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) quickly issue a combustible dust standard
to prevent and mitigate the seriousness of dust explosions in
the workplace. CSB had found that from 1980 to 2005, 281 dust
explosions in the United States had killed 119 workers and
injured 718. Despite this mounting death toll, OSHA rejected
the recommendation. Since that time, there have been 82 more
serious combustible dust explosions.
The most serious of these explosions happened on February
7, 2008, when there was a massive explosion at the Imperial
Sugar refinery in Port Wenworth, GA. Thirteen workers were
killed and several are still in the hospital burn unit. The CSB
and OSHA have confirmed that combustible dust caused the
It is past time to issue a standard to prevent these kinds
of accidents and if the agency will not do so, then Congress
must legislate one.
As I have said before, this Department of Labor has used
its regulatory authority as if its mandate were to err on the
side of corporations over the public interest--even when its
decisions undermine the spirit of the law and puts workers'
lives at risk. And the evidence that this Department is failing
to fulfill its mission continues to grow.
Earlier this year, the majority staff prepared a report
titled, ``Discounting Death: OSHA's Failure to Punish Safety
Violations That Kill Workers,'' showing that OSHA
systematically imposes small fines on employers, even in cases
where safety violations led to a worker's death. And it almost
immediately discounts a fine if the employer contests it.
Unfortunately, this record of lapsed or absentee
enforcement efforts appears to be systemic, as two recent
Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports shed light on
serious problems at the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). One
report addressed the overall effectiveness of the Division's
enforcement procedures, finding that WHD is not adequately
assuring employer compliance. It found that the WHD did not
effectively take advantage of available information and tools
in planning and conducting its compliance activities; WHD
failed to use key data on complaints and input from external
groups--such as employer and worker advocacy organizations--to
inform its planning process. This report also found that WHD
focused on the same four industries from 1997 to 2007, despite
information from its own commissioned studies that there were
other low-wage industries that had equally high rates of
potential wage and hour violations. Finally, GAO concluded that
the agency does not sufficiently leverage its existing tools
and partnerships to encourage employers to comply with the law.
Another GAO report found alarming lapses in the
Department's handling of individual worker complaints. GAO
found frequent instances where WHD: (1) inappropriately
rejected complaints based on incorrect information provided by
employers; (2) failed to make adequate attempts to locate
employers; (3) did not thoroughly investigate and resolve
complaints, and (4) delayed initiating investigations for
excessive periods of time.
By some estimates, more than 50,000 Americans lose their
lives every year due to workplace accidents or job-related
diseases. For American workers, that's about one work-related
fatality every 10 minutes--or 150 working families every single
day that suffer a terrible tragedy, losing a father or mother,
a husband or wife, a son or a daughter. In the report issued by
this committee, a few of those husbands and wives and fathers
and mothers expressed their pain of loss and deep distress that
OSHA has refused to penalize firms to a level necessary to lead
to safer workplaces and discourage additional deaths.
And occasional large fines in isolated cases like Imperial
Sugar will not solve the problem. Fines and penalties have to
be applied systemically when violations occur to encourage
compliance by other employers, and the agency needs to issue
standards in a timely and effective manner. In this case it did
The Department of Labor is suffering from a dangerous lack
of leadership and focus, and workers are paying the price. This
hearing is only the latest in a series of events that make it
clear that the Secretary and her team need to re-double their
efforts to enforce the protections workers are due under the
Prepared Statement of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)
On behalf of its 32,000 member safety, health and environmental
(SH&E) professionals, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)
commends Congress for its efforts to address the occupational risks
posed by combustible dust. On job sites in various industries across
the country, our members work with their employers to manage hazards
associated with combustible dust from the wide variety of sources it is
derived. Based on their front-line experience and training, ASSE urges
caution in moving ahead to address this issue legislatively without
developing a deeper understanding of current Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA) standards, their enforcement by OSHA and
State occupational safety and health plans, and the approach taken to
manage combustible dust risks through national consensus standards.
The risks to workers and employer property and communities posed by
combustible dust are significant. The 2006 study by the U.S. Chemical
and Safety Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) identified 281 dust fires
and explosions that occurred at U.S. businesses between 1980 and 2005--
not including primary grain handling or underground coal dust
explosions. (The CSB study can be found at http://www.csb.gov/
incidents killed 119 workers, injured 718, and extensively damaged
industrial facilities. Injuries or fatalities occurred in 71 percent of
these incidents. Now, given recent news accounts of the Georgia dust
explosion that killed 13 workers and injured 40 and threatened the
economic well-being of a community, ASSE understands the urge to find a
legislative solution, as reflected in the ``Combustible Dust Explosion
and Fire Prevention Act of 2008'' (H.R. 5522) introduced by House
Committee on Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller. If,
after thoughtful deliberation, Congress determines legislation is
needed to address failures in regulating combustible dust, there is
much in Chairman Miller's approach that ASSE can support.
Most importantly, ASSE supports the assurance contained in H.R.
5522 that any new OSHA rule concerning combustible dust will not be
less effective than the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
voluntary consensus standards. This requirement is consistent with the
duty established under Public Law 104-113, ``The National Technology
Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995,'' and OMB Circular A119. In
Public Law 104-113, Congress ordered that:
(A)ll Federal agencies and departments shall use technical
standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus
standards bodies, using such technical standards as a means to
carry out policy objectives or activities determined by the
agencies and departments.
H.R. 5522 appropriately identifies NFPA's Standard on Prevention of
Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing and
Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids (NFPA 654) and its Standard
for Combustible Metals (NFPA 484). To be consistent and thorough, the
bill needs likewise to reference NFPA's Standard on Prevention of Fires
and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities (NFPA
664), its Standard on Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in
Agriculture and Food Processing Facilities, (NFPA 61) and other widely
adopted NFPA consensus standards addressing deflagration venting (NFPA
68), electrical classification (NFPA 70 and 499), static electricity
(NFPA 77) and explosion prevention/protection systems (NFPA 69).
Where ASSE has difficulty in any approach by Congress to address
regulatory issues is setting unrealistic dates for action by Federal
agencies. H.R. 5522 would require an interim final standard to be
promulgated by OSHA within 90 days of enactment followed by a final
standard with 18 months. No doubt, the feeling that Congress needs to
compel action in this case is fueled by the lack of standard-setting
activity by occupational safety and health agencies under the current
Administration. However, ASSE's own assessment of the complexities of
this issue coupled with the complexities unfortunately posed by the
current statutory obligations under the Administrative Procedure Act,
the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act (SBRFA) and the regulatory
and economic impact analyses required under Executive Order 12866 lead
ASSE to conclude that completion of a final rule within 24 months is a
more realistic goal. Further, ASSE advises that the technical and
policy issues involved here are so complex that Congress would be well
advised to mandate that OSHA approach the issue in a way that mirrors
the successful voluntary consensus-building process successfully used
by industry and the occupational safety and health community to address
combustible dust, which is available to OSHA through negotiated
If this were an issue not already addressed by OSHA, industry and
the safety and health community in a largely adequate way, ASSE could
understand the need for immediate action by Congress. But, from all
reports of our members working to address combustible dust hazards,
there is no simple glaring failure that quick action by Congress would
easily fix. In fact, our members report largely adequate action on
OSHA's part, given the limits of its resources.
Currently, 17 different OSHA regulations address combustible dust
hazards. In addition to Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act (General Duty
Clause), OSHA lists the following standards as applicable to regulating
different aspects of the combustible dust issue: 1910.22, Housekeeping;
1910.38, Emergency action plans; 1910.94, Ventilation; 1910.119,
Process Safety Management; 1910.132, Personal Protective Equipment;
1910.146, Permit-required confined spaces; 1910.157, Portable fire
extinguishers; 1910.165, Employee alarm systems; 1910.176, Handling
materials--general; 1910.178, Powered industrial trucks; 1910.263,
Bakery Equipment; 1910.265, Sawmill Operations; 1910.269, Electric
power generation, transmission, and distribution; 1910.272, Grain
handling facilities; 1910.307, Hazardous (classified) locations; and
1910.1200, Hazard communication. Further, the National Special Emphasis
program for combustible dust that OSHA re-issued in 2008 is a
commendable resource for bringing notice and attention to this issue
among employers and the occupational safety and health community.
In ASSE's own informal discussion with its members who are experts
managing combustible dust risks, we have not been able to identify any
recent incident whose hazards were not already addressed by these
standards and the outreach information that OSHA already has in place.
In addition, workplaces' protections from dust hazards are enhanced
through NFPA's widely adopted and understood voluntary consensus
standards, which are enforced not only by employers working with SH&E
professionals but often also by fire departments that take an interest
in working with employers to avoid hazards with the assistance of the
NFPA standards. Also, design engineers and architects working on new
production facilities look to the NFPA standards if such facilities are
not covered by local or State fire prevention and building codes.
These resources should give Congress some assurance that a
reasonable amount of time can be taken to ensure that a legislative
approach not only takes into account the measures proposed by H.R.
5522, but also several other issues not addressed by the current
Perhaps the most important issue not addressed by current
legislation is the adequacy of OSHA's resources to conduct inspections.
OSHA's ability to inspect this Nation's workplaces with the limited
number of inspectors it is able to employ is a long-standing issue of
concern. Inadequate inspection resources not only causes OSHA to miss
dangerous workplaces, but inspections that are hurried or done without
an adequate basis in training can also result. With regard to dust, if
only 50 of OSHA's 1029 inspectors have had ``extensive dust training,''
as Assistant Secretary Edwin Foulke, Jr., told 60 Minutes recently
main4157170_page3.shtml), then a bill that does not address OSHA's
resources to inspect workplaces competently where combustible dust can
be a hazard will not address any current failure to prevent future
explosions. It is critical that OSHA's compliance officers receive
adequate training in order to identify and address combustible dust
risks. More standards, no matter how effective, without the adequate
capability to enforce them will not be adequate to address this hazard
when workers' lives are at stake.
Reasonably adequate time also would allow Congress working with
OSHA and the occupational safety and health community to address what
may be the key underlying difficulty with the current regulatory
approach to combustible dust. Given 17 different regulations impacting
combustible dust risks, it is reasonable to expect difficulties in
employers' efforts to establish a cohesive and effective combustible
dust hazard management program in a workplace. A cooperative effort
driven by congressional commitment to this issue should ideally look
for a way to examine OSHA's regulations and outreach resources
addressing combustible dust in light of the NFPA consensus standards
and CSB's recommendations on this issue. While no simple answer to the
complexities involved in managing combustible dust exists, a more
organized, comprehensive approach by OSHA is needed to facilitate
Whether the ultimate answer is expansion of the process safety
management standard, utilization of applicable sections of the grain
dust standard for other industry sectors, or development of a stand-
alone combustible dust standard is not clear at this point. ASSE's
primary concern is that an answer to the current difficulties involving
combustible dust risk management be based on sound science and done in
a way that affords all stakeholders due process, without any undue
As always, ASSE stands ready to offer the expertise and front-line
experience of our members in managing worksite hazards as this
subcommittee grapples with the best way to help ensure all workers are
adequately protected from risk factors associated with combustible
Prepared Statement of William J. Hargraves
My name is William J. Hargraves. I am providing this statement
voluntarily for consideration by the U.S. Senate Health, Education,
Labor, and Pension Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.
This statement is based on my personal knowledge of the facts stated
Until my retirement in January 2008, I was employed by the U.S.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). During the past
28 years, I worked as an OSHA inspector, assigned to the Springfield,
MA OSHA Area Office. My job classification and concentration was in the
field of Industrial Hygiene.
As an OSHA inspector, I received extensive training on OSHA's
general and specific industry standards. I also received training on
inspection methods and procedures. In my 28 years as an inspector,
however, I never received training on the potential hazards of
combustible dust in the workplace. I was never provided an opportunity
to attend or provide training on the hazards of combustible dust. As
described below, my knowledge of combustible dust hazards was achieved
only as a result of my experience in personally investigating a
multiple fatality accident caused by a combustible dust explosion.
It was my experience as an OSHA inspector that any knowledge of the
hazards of combustible dusts was retained locally within OSHA Area
Offices and Regions. The local knowledge and expertise developed from
investigations often remained only within the area offices and it was
not routinely shared with other offices. For example, OSHA Regions
where agricultural activities were more concentrated may have had wider
knowledge of combustible dust hazards due to the long history of grain
dust explosions. OSHA responded to grain dust hazards in 1987 by
issuing a health and safety standard, 29 CFR 1910.272--Grain Handling.
On February 25, 1999, an explosion and fire occurred in the Shell
Molding Department of Jahn (pronounced ``yon'' ) Foundry in
Springfield, MA. Three employees died and nine were severely burned. A
joint foundry investigation team, led by OSHA compliance officers of
the Springfield Area Office, determined that the most likely cause was
a machine malfunction that provided a source of ignition for the
eventual dust explosion of a phenol-formaldehyde resin dust used in the
molding process. I served as the co-lead investigator for OSHA. The
OSHA lead investigators wrote the final report of the events.
Jahn Foundry had been inspected by OSHA compliance officers
repeatedly during my time in the Springfield Area Office. I was one of
the compliance officers who went to the foundry within 3 years of the
tragic dust explosion. The inspection I conducted (approximately 1996)
was generated by an employee complaint of oil mist in the machine shop.
Other plant areas were visited, including the Shell Molding Department,
and my memory of the housekeeping was unremarkable given that the
nature of the foundry business is dust-producing and visibly dirty.
However, the conditions were not excessively so obvious that it caught
my attention. I did not give any regard to the nature of the dust and
its potential hazards because it was unknown to me as dangerous. At the
conclusion of my inspection, Jahn Foundry received no citation for any
violation of OSHA standards.
Returning to Jahn Foundry after the 1999 explosion and fire, the
role of dust in the events leading up to the conflagration was clearly
obvious. Our investigation found that shell molding stations were
inches-deep in sand and resin; horizontal surfaces were covered in
similar accumulations; and internal ducts of the ventilation system had
several inches of resin and fine dust accumulation. The initiating
event was either an ignition of resin dust particles by the open flame
of a shell molding machine, or a failure of natural gas valves in the
machine, which provided another source of ignition. The flame front
entered the ducts, causing an internal explosion inside the ducts,
which caused the combustible resin dust on horizontal surfaces of the
steel framework (where the ducts were attached) to become suspended in
the air. The blow back of the duct work explosion ignited the suspended
resin dust, causing the roof to lift and the walls to fail, resulting
in severe injuries to 12 workers. The shell mold operator at the
station that was identified as the most likely to be the source of
ignition died of burns within hours of the event.
The resin dust remained easily observable after the explosion. The
resin dust was explosive as a finely divided powder. It could not
sustain a fire. After exploding, the settled resin dust simply charred
and extinguished itself. Breaking of the charred surface revealed the
distinguishing yellow color of the resin underneath.
Following the Jahn Foundry explosion, the company received a
citation with 22 violations and a total penalty of $115,000. For the
conditions related to the resin dust and fatalities, OSHA cited a
``Willful'' violation of 29 CFR 1910.22(a)(1): ``All places of
employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept
clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition.'' In issuing this
``housekeeping'' violation, we relied on the National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA) Standard 654--Standard for the Prevention of Fire
and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing and Handling of
Combustible Particulate Solids. OSHA did not have, nor does it
currently have, a comprehensive standard directly relating to
In my opinion, the lack of a comprehensive standard that directly
addresses the hazards of combustible dust in General Industry leaves a
significant number of employers and employees without knowledge of how
to identify, evaluate and resolve potential combustible dust
explosions. Having a comprehensive standard for combustible dust would
aid OSHA Compliance Officers as much as it would employers. During the
rulemaking process, employers, manufacturers, scientists, and other
regulators would have an opportunity to review and comment on the
proposed standard. The rulemaking process and final comprehensive
standard would eliminate the problems with OSHA's use of general and
vague standards, such as the General Duty Clause (Section (5)(a)(1) of
the OSH Act of 1970) and references to nongovernmental entity consensus
standards (like NFPA) to cite employers for dust hazards. Moreover, a
peer-reviewed standard for combustible dust would mean: (1) everyone
starts from the same point; (2) OSHA will publish clear notification to
employers; (3) OSHA will publish an inspection directive for compliance
officers to follow and for employers to reference on the OSHA Web site;
and (4) OSHA would include with the standard a ``Combustible Dust
Compliance Program,'' with guidance as to how employers could manage
and control the hazards of combustible dust.
In my opinion, I also believe OSHA should address potential
deficiencies in manufacturer's Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) under
29 CFR 1910.1200--Hazard Communication. The MSD sheet has been a part
of OSHA regulation for almost 20 years. I determined during the
inspection following the Jahn Foundry explosion that the MSD sheet for
the phenolformaldehyde resin did not adequately address the explosion
potential. The MSD sheet provides the first source of knowledge of
hazards. Manufacturers use the MSD sheet to provide minimum information
with product liability the most obvious reason. Because the extent of
the combustible dust hazard is so wide, it would be appropriate for
OSHA to begin revised rulemaking to update 29 CFR 1910.1200.
I have reviewed OSHA's recently published National Emphasis Program
(NEP) on combustible dust hazards. When OSHA published the NEP in
October 2007, it was the first time that I and other compliance
officers witnessed an attempt by OSHA to address a long-standing issue.
It was acutely apparent to me that seeing this effort 9 years after
Jahn Foundry that OSHA was under scrutiny. In the review of the NEP, I
did note that it was a ``re-issuance.'' I could not recall the original
issuance, so I questioned fellow compliance officers. Indeed, they also
did not recall an original issuance.
According to the NEP, OSHA claims to have regulated combustible
dust hazards through multiple existing standards, such as the
housekeeping standard, electrical standards, and the general duty
clause. In my experience as an OSHA inspector, I believe this shot gun
approach, using general and vague standards that do not directly
address dust hazards, has been an insufficient means to educate
employers about how to control these hazards and prevent combustible
From my experience as an OSHA inspector, I know that employers are
not aware that the General Requirements for Walking-Working Surfaces
(29 CFR 1910.22) contains a housekeeping regulation that OSHA applies
to the management of combustible dust hazards. The housekeeping part of
the General Requirements for Walking-Working Surfaces (29 CFR 1910.22)
does not even address dust, and certainly does not address the hazards
of combustible dust. The General Requirements for Walking-Working
Surfaces (29 CFR 1910.22) is a general and broad standard that does not
provide specific information for employer compliance. Employers who
have had dust explosions followed by an OSHA inspection learn only
after the fact that this standard will be applied by OSHA. For example,
the Jahn Foundry dust explosion citations were issued under the General
Requirements for Walking-Working Surfaces (29 CFR 1910.22). To show a
recognized industry hazard of combustible dusts, OSHA relied on a
consensus standard, the National Fire Protection Association standard
654--Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the
Manufacturing, Processing and Handling of Combustible Particulate
The NEP relies on references to 13 different consensus standards by
the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In my experience as an
OSHA inspector, employers are not knowledgeable about consensus
standards unless such standards are specifically adopted as OSHA
standards. Therefore, I believe OSHA's reference to consensus standards
is ineffective as a means to educate employers on the hazards of
I have inspected hundreds of workplaces where combustible dust may
have been present. Only subsequent to my experience with the Jahn
Foundry explosion did the potential hazards of combustible dusts become
an integral part of my inspection process. In fact, it became a part of
my Area Office compliance staff 's knowledge and concern. After
February 1999 (Jahn Foundry), the Springfield Area Office proposed and
issued citations using either the General Requirements for Walking-
Working Surfaces (29 CFR 1910.22) (referencing NFPA 654) or the General
Duty Clause (OSH Act Sec. 5(a)(1)) (referencing NFPA 654). For example,
in one case, a manufacturer of desktops and seats for school furniture
utilized a combination of wood flour and melamine-formaldehyde resin.
Dust in the Blending Area was inches thick on horizontal surfaces. The
dust migration to the steel support beams throughout the plant created
a severe combustible dust hazard.
The presence of combustible dusts in manufacturing is pervasive and
crosses the spectrum of processes. Jahn Foundry and the school
furniture manufacturer noted above are just representatives of the
potential breadth of the problem. The processes are different between
them, yet the same hazard potential exists for both.
Based on my experiences when inspecting workplaces over the past 28
years, I know employers are not knowledgeable about the hazards of
combustible dusts. In my opinion, this lack of knowledge shows that
OSHA's current approach is ineffective and inadequate. The scattered
method of relying on existing vague OSHA standards, combined with a
failure to provide employers a means to identify, evaluate and control
combustible dust hazards, is not working.
I support the efforts of Congress to require a comprehensive
standard that gives clear guidance to employers regarding dust hazards
and the methods to control those hazards. I believe employers and
workers would greatly benefit from the enactment of a comprehensive
combustible dust standard.
Thank you for considering this statement in connection with this
hearing. If I can provide further information or assistance to the
subcommittee, please let me know.
Prepared Statement of Imperial Sugar Company
On February 7, 2008, the employees and contractors of Imperial
Sugar Company experienced a workplace tragedy at our sugar refinery in
Port Wentworth, GA, which we now believe was related to combustible
sugar dust. We lost 13 members of the Imperial Sugar family as a result
of this tragic event, and many more were severely injured. Many lives
were saved, however, by the heroic efforts of the first responders,
emergency services personnel, and medical professionals in Port
Wentworth and surrounding areas. Words cannot express the Company's
appreciation to these individuals for their service in our time of
Imperial Sugar Company is also deeply thankful for all of those who
have come to the aid of our employees, contractors and their families
in this time of great suffering and loss. Local, State and Federal
officials, including our elected representatives in Georgia, and others
have shown tremendous support for our Company family, and we very much
appreciate their continued support. We are grateful to everyone who has
helped us along the long road to recovery.
Imperial Sugar Company offers its deep appreciation to Chairwoman
Murray and Ranking Member Isakson for holding this hearing on the need
for health and safety standards regarding combustible dust in American
workplaces. Imperial Sugar Company supports Congress's desire for
combustible dust standards that will make workplaces safer. There is no
doubt that the sugar industry would benefit from the enactment of
combustible dust standards. It is our view that a clear standard would
assist employers in understanding the hazards of combustible dust and
the means to reduce or prevent such hazards. We believe that prior to
February 7, there was an insufficient understanding of the hazards of
combustible dusts both within the sugar industry and within the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Prior to the February 7, 2008 tragedy at Port Wentworth, Imperial
Sugar was working diligently regarding the safety and health of our
employees and contractors.
At the time of the February 7, 2008 accident, the Port
Wentworth plant's total rate of recordable injuries had been steadily
reduced by 33 percent since 2005.
The last time OSHA had inspected the Port Wentworth plant
was in 2000, when it conducted two inspections during May and June of
that year. Neither of those inspections resulted in any citations
against Imperial Sugar.
At the time of the February 7 accident, almost half of the
Port Wentworth plant managers and supervisors had completed OSHA's 30-
Hour Course for general industry, in addition to plant-specific safety
training. Developed by OSHA, this 30-hour course trains employees in a
wide range of safety and health hazard recognition and prevention.
At the time of the February 7 accident, Port Wentworth
maintained a First Responder Team of 50 employees. These employees
attend an intensive 40-hour initial course on such topics as incident
command, emergency response, first aid/CPR, fire prevention and
protection, incipient fire response, hazardous materials, and high
angle rescue. They also attend an annual 24-hour refresher course.
In early 2007, the Port Wentworth facility embarked on an
aggressive plan to develop a written job safety analysis for every job
function at the Port Wentworth plant.
In 2007, the Port Wentworth facility implemented new
requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), including the
mandatory wearing of hard hats, safety glasses, and steel-toed shoes--
all provided at no cost to employees.
In fiscal year 2007, the Port Wentworth plant spent over
$1.7 million on safety-related capital improvements to the facility.
OSHA first published its National Emphasis Program regarding
combustible dust (NEP) on October 18, 2007. After the publication of
OSHA's NEP, some of the activities either completed or ongoing at Port
Wentworth regarding combustible dust included the following:
refocusing our efforts on housekeeping, including
conducting daily walkthroughs focusing on both safety and quality, with
a particular emphasis on housekeeping;
focusing on the most critical and dust-prone production
areas with personnel and resources in the areas of safety, quality,
operations, maintenance and engineering; and
purchasing industrial vacuums, as recommended by the NEP,
for use in cleaning dust and to minimize airborne disbursement (as
potentially caused by blowing and sweeping).
The efforts described above continued through the end of 2007 and
were ongoing at the time of the February 2008 accident.
Imperial Sugar's efforts regarding safety and health, including
housekeeping, continued after Graham H. Graham joined Imperial Sugar in
November 2007. Mr. Graham was recruited into Imperial Sugar by then-
Chief Operating Officer and now Chief Executive Officer John Sheptor
because of Mr. Graham's experience with innovative manufacturing
principles, including Total Productive Maintenance, Six Sigma, LEAN,
and others. After Mr. Sheptor brought Mr. Graham on board last
November, Mr. Graham was immediately dispatched to improve our
facilities on all fronts, including safety.
Shortly after joining the Company, Mr. Graham visited the Company's
Port Wentworth facility in November and December 2007, and identified
many areas for improvement. Mr. Graham reported to Mr. Sheptor his
initial impressions and findings regarding our Port Wentworth facility,
which were lengthy. Mr. Graham concluded this report to Mr. Sheptor
with ``Here's the good news: it's all fixable.'' (See Attachment A, a
November 16, 2007 e-mail from Mr. Graham to Mr. Sheptor). In response,
Mr. Sheptor indicated as follows: ``Thanks Graham--no surprises. You
have my full support.'' (See Attachment A). Mr. Graham forwarded Mr.
Sheptor another report of his findings regarding his December 2007
visit, and Mr. Sheptor continued to offer him his full support.
Under Mr. Graham's direction, the management and hourly employees
at Port Wentworth went to work on a variety of projects, including
focusing on housekeeping efforts, electrical improvements and other
enhancements. The plant also increased the number and frequency of
safety inspections conducted by all levels of supervision.
Mr. Graham returned to the Port Wentworth facility in late January
2008 and reported that significant progress had been made in many areas
in the month since his December visit. His communications regarding
that time period included the following:
In a January 21, 2008 operations report, Mr. Graham noted
that ``[t]here is already a noticeable and significant improvement in
housekeeping at both facilities. In particular, exposure to live
electrical conductors has been eliminated or severely restricted.''
In response to Mr. Sheptor's e-mail inquiry on how Mr.
Graham's plant visits had been in January 2008, Mr. Graham responded
with ``Very successful . . . plants have made enormous improvement
especially in housekeeping. Actually even better than I expected at
Savannah.'' (See Attachment B, a January 25, 2008 e-mail from Mr.
Graham to Mr. Sheptor).
On January 31, 2008, seven (7) days prior to the explosion
at Port Wentworth, Mr. Graham forwarded data regarding injury and
illness rates to the plant safety personnel, stating ``Please share
this excellent progress with the managers and associates. Well done to
everyone.'' (See Attachment C, a January 31, 2008 e-mail from Mr.
As a result of the tragic accident at Port Wentworth, OSHA also
began an inspection of Imperial Sugar's facility in Gramercy, LA. In
connection with OSHA citations that were issued related to that
inspection, Mr. Graham reported as follows:
``Even before OSHA showed up, hundreds of defects have been
identified and corrected (too many to mention here) going back
to December 07 but inevitably when 8 inspectors spend
significant amount of time looking for defects they are bound
to come up with some that have not yet been identified or yet
(See Attachment D, a March 23, 2008 e-mail from Mr. Graham to Mr.
In short, prior to the February 7, 2008 explosion at the Port
Wentworth facility, Imperial Sugar was focused on safety and health,
including housekeeping, and believed that much progress was being made.
After the February 7, 2008 explosion, contrary to allegations
recently leveled by OSHA, Imperial Sugar promptly undertook a thorough
inspection and review of its Gramercy facility to ensure that there
were no combustible dust or other hazards present there. These efforts
were initiated at the highest level of Imperial Sugar's management.
Indeed, Mr. Sheptor directed Mr. Graham, as the Vice-President of all
of the Company's operations, to temporarily relocate to the Gramercy
facility and personally oversee the identification and resolution of
issues found there. (See Attachment E, a February 26, 2008 e-mail from
Mr. Sheptor to Mr. Graham establishing this as Mr. Graham's top
priority). Mr. Sheptor also forwarded to Mr. Graham a March 7, 2008
letter from OSHA advising Imperial Sugar to ensure that its Gramercy
plant was in compliance with OSHA standards, reiterated to Mr. Graham
that ensuring the safety of workers at all Imperial Sugar facilities
remained the Company's top priority, and directed him to periodically
report to Mr. Sheptor on the status of the work being done at Gramercy.
In short, the Company took prompt and reasonable actions in response to
the explosion at Port Wentworth to ensure that its ongoing operations
Whether or not OSHA promulgates a combustible dust standard,
Imperial Sugar has taken, and will, on its own initiative, continue to
take substantial steps in response to our explosion to ensure our
workplaces are safe and that nothing remotely similar to what happened
on February 7 ever happens again. For example,
Imperial Sugar has retained consultants from Chilworth
Technology, who are the world's leading experts on combustible dust
fire prevention and control, and one of your witnesses today. Chilworth
is working with our inside and outside designers and engineers to
ensure that our Port Wentworth facility is designed according to the
latest U.S. and international guidelines and best engineering practices
as they relate to dust hazards.
In addition to guiding Imperial Sugar's design process,
Chilworth has provided training to all of our Port Wentworth employees
on combustible dust hazards.
Imperial has engaged Chilworth to develop a process safety
system of internal standards for Imperial at both the Port Wentworth
and Gramercy plants. This system will (1) ensure compliance with
applicable safety standards and guidelines; (2) provide guidance on
equipment selection, maintenance and operating practices; and (3)
include tools on evaluating and controlling hazards. We intend that
this process will be above and beyond anything required by applicable
OSHA standards and will incorporate both the U.S. NFPA standards as
well as the European Union's ATEX directives.
Imperial Sugar is similarly working with Chilworth with
respect to its Gramercy, LA facility in connection with improvements
and training there. Imperial Sugar has already committed $1.8 million
in capital expenditures related to safety at Gramercy and expects to
commit even more in expenditures in the coming months.
Imperial Sugar is continuing its internal safety training,
audits and efforts at its facilities, including relating to emergency
response and hazard control.
Thank you again for holding this important hearing on legislation
that is vital to the safety of American workplaces, and thank you for
considering this statement in connection with the hearing.
From: Sheptor, John C. (/O=IMPERIAL SUGAR COMPANY/OU=IHC/CN=
To: Graham, Graham H.
Subject: Re: Initial Impression of Savannah
Thanks Graham--no surprises. You have my full support.
From: Graham, Graham H.
To: Sheptor, John C.
Subject: Initial Impression of Savannah
Here's a summary of my first impressions of the operation at
Initial kerb side visual appeal is poor.
Considering this is a food grade facility, cleanliness &
contamination control is also poor.
Offices and work areas scruffy, untidy and somewhat
Lack of signage to indicate use, direction, purpose or
Poor lighting and demarcation of pedestrian/work/
Not easy to identify role of employee (many not wearing
corporate colors, some due to temp labor of course and some because
their contracted but they should still wear something).
Road surfaces/working surfaces very rough and uneven.
people & management
Stunningly high head count.
Absenteeism not apparently reported/broadcasted.
Excessive overtime >50 percent.
Excessive use of contracted labor.
Lots of supervisors.
Functional heads unsure of specific manufacturing
Functional heads lack customer focus/awareness.
QA given responsibility but lack authority and
General sense of lack of strong leadership &
Willingness to recognize deficiencies and learn
Strong technical knowledge.
Way too many attendees at meetings (18 at one of them !).
process & machinery
Waste sugar/liquids everywhere.
Leaks, poor containment across the site.
Frequent unplanned downtime.
Hard to see visual effect of significant CAPEX spending.
Packaging/carton lines suffer frequent interruptions/
Inconsistent bag sealing.
Significant use of manual labor in stacking & palletizing
Control systems may benefit from 3rd party examination
using sophisticated recipe/stability/control/performance envelope
systems & procedures
Confusing, disjointed work schedules; few overlaps making
Lack of WAR ROOM to focus/connect bottom line metrics to
Management meetings (CAPEX, P&L, Safety) felt superficial
and lacking in real accountability for achievements and progress.
Too frequent use of phrases such as ``we hope to get that
done,'' ``we hope that will happen,'' `` we hope it works out,'' etc.
No headline/banner performance improvement objectives
Plant performance metrics displayed but graphs too small,
hidden in conference room; Metrics not displayed and shared with hourly
employees (i.e. little use of line of site metrics).
,Here's the good news: it's all fixable. Much of it is affecting
the bottom line. I expect a similar experience at Gramercy. So when
that's over, I'll be selecting a few topics that both plants will focus
on which I'll use to contribute to my 90-day review.
From: Graham, Graham H. (/O=IMPERIAL SUGAR COMPANY/OU=IHC/CN=
To: Sheptor, John C.
Subject: Re: Six Sigma and LEAN Training
John: Very successful . . . plants have made enormous improvement
especially in housekeeping. Actually even better than I expected at
People fired up and eager to move forward with reductions in costs,
improvements in productivity, etc.
I'll write up summary when I get back to Houston tonight and pass
on web links/resource details for six sigma courses.
From: Sheptor, John C.
To: Graham, Graham H.
Subject: Six Sigma and LEAN Training
Hi Graham: How have your visits to the refineries been this week?
What are your observations?
When you get a chance, please forward to me the Web sites for the
online six sigma and LEAN training that you are recommending.
Attachment C.--OSHA Recordables 2004 to Q1, 2008.ppt
From: Pevey, Darren (/O=IMPERIAL SUGAR COMPANY/OU=SFI/CN=
To: # SSR Sugar Refinery; Braddy Electric; Don Ogle; Kerby
Contractors; P & L Transport; Savannah Bridge; Stokes Contractors;
Subject: Safety Numbers--1st Quarter
cc: Graham, Graham H.
Supervisors please print out the chart and post in break rooms for
all employees to see.
Everyone: These are the slides from John's presentation on safety
in yesterday's Town Hall Meeting. These slides show that the company
(all sites) has had (6) OSHA Recordables, (4) Restricted Duty Cases,
(0) LTA's and an OSHA Rate of 2.53. This is close to a 50% reduction
from our numbers in the first quarter of last year and includes all
contractor numbers as well. Great job to all the teams on this effort.
Safety will continue to perform department inspections including
supervisors and master mechanics performing them as well. JSA training
will continue each week on the top at risk jobs with help from members
of each department with the development and implementation. Again,
great job to everyone, you are making a difference.
From: Graham, Graham H.
To: Sikes, Doug; Pevey, Darren; Zeringue, Joel
Subject: OSHA Recordables 2004 to Q1, 2008.ppt
Gents: Please share this excellent progress with the managers and
associates. Well done to everyone.
Attachment D.--Imperial Sugar.pdf
From: Graham, Graham H.
To: Sheptor, John C.
Subject: FW: Imperial Sugar Citation and Notification of Penalty
cc: Sikes, Doug; Brannen, Oscar
You've probably already been copied by the lawyer but this
attachment is a list of citations issued Friday.
All of them will be fixed by Monday or Tuesday next week except for
the two dust management systems which OSHA expects us to modify to move
the residual air outside of the work area. This will require
engineering and some civil work if we are to proceed without contesting
Even before OSHA showed up, hundreds of defects have been
identified and corrected (too many to mention here) going back to
December 2007 but inevitably when 8 inspectors spend significant amount
of time looking for defects they are bound to come up with some that
have not yet been identified or yet corrected.
From: Boyd, Stephen--OSHA [mailto: [email protected]]
To: Graham, Graham H.; Veters, Pat
Subject: Imperial Sugar Citation and Notification of Penalty
As discussed, here is a scanned copy of the current Citation and
Notification of Penalty. Thank you.
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From: Sheptor, John C. (/O=IMPERIAL SUGAR COMPANY/OU=IHC/CN=
To: Graham, Graham H.
Subject: Gramercy Observations
Graham: I have re-read your Gramercy observations and accordingly,
I request that you make an extended visit to the site for you
personally to oversee the resolution of these concerns. I will make a
visit to the site myself as soon as possible to review your progress.
Your response needs to take priority over your other activities to
bring urgent attention to these issues. You can reach alignment with
Brian on an organization recommendation via teleconference.
Please schedule a call with me next week to update me regarding the
I also encourage you to continue to work with the site towards a
shared vision and joint collaboration with your objectives as we have
previously discussed. Performance standards will become more
sustainable if you work together with your team to make the
improvements. Critique alone is not adequate leadership. You will make
faster and more significant progress if you join your team at the site
to effectualize these improvements.
June 17, 2008.
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions,
428 Senate Dirksen Office Building,
Washington, DC 20510.
Dear Senators: USMWF and many family members have been involved in
the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act (H.R. 5522). We
have gained over 500 signatures of friends and families that support
H.R. 5522. Many have told us that this is considered a political issue
but we are hopeful that this will not be used for political gains as it
is a matter of life or death. Behind each one of these workers killed
and injured is a family in mourning--a family in need of answers,
resources and support. These families and the ones still left in the
30,000 facilities need your support.
Since 1980, there have been over 350 dust explosions resulting in
the deaths of more than 130 people. Despite the tragedies that have
occurred, OSHA refuses to implement a standard for controlling
combustible dust. At this point, getting safety standards passed to
help prevent future accidents is of paramount importance.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the U.S. grain industry
experienced a rise in explosions due to grain dust. In response to
this, OSHA issued a grain dust safety standard. After the standard was
introduced, injuries and fatalities as a result of dust explosions fell
60 percent. Unfortunately the standard applies only to grain dust,
while there are many other materials that create equally dangerous
dusts such as aluminum, coal, sawdust, etc. American workers need a
standard that applies to all types of combustible dust in various work
The House has already voted and passed the Combustible Dust
Explosion and Fire Prevention Act (H.R. 5522). It now awaits approval
by the Senate. This legislation would require OSHA to set a standard on
combustible dust, which would mitigate the probability of accidental
explosions. We respectfully ask that you sign the bill if it passes in
the House and Senate. Please sign this bill for the sake of the workers
and their families who are currently employed by more than 30,000 U.S.
factories vulnerable to dust explosions. We look forward to hearing
from you on this matter.
Founder and President, USMWF
and the undersigned Families and Friends.
[Whereupon, at 12:07 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]