Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program Revised by OSHA

On January 27, 2023, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a revised Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) [1], which contains policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that may generate or handle combustible dusts. The new program was issued in accordance with the Directives issued by OSHA [2], and its purpose is to continue OSHA inspections of facilities that may be at risk of combustible dust-related fatalities and catastrophes [3]. 

 The revised program includes industries that had previously not been subject to OSHA inspections, such as  

  • 311812 – Commercial Bakeries 
  • 325910 – Printing Ink Manufacturing   
  • 321912 – Cut Stock, Resawing Lumber, and Planning   
  • 316110 – Leather and Hide Tanning and Finishing   
  • 321214 – Truss Manufacturing   
  • 424510 – Grain and Field Bean Merchant Wholesalers  

OSHA initiated the Combustible Dust NEP in 2007 following a series of combustible dust incidents that led to a number of fatalities and serious injuries. 

What is Combustible Dust? 

Combustible dust is a fine powder or particles that can become easily airborne. The particles are smaller than 500 micrometers, or 0.005 millimeters, and can be composed of a variety of materials, such as:  

  • Metals, such as aluminum, magnesium, and titanium 
  • Plastics and other organic materials, such as wood flour and coal  
  • Inorganic materials, such as sulfur and phosphate  

When suspended in the air, the dust can become combustible when in the presence of an oxidant, such as oxygen, and a source of ignition, such as a spark or heat. When this occurs, the dust can combust, resulting in a fire or an explosive event.  

Risks of Combustible Dust 

The potential risks of combustible dust are numerous. In the event of a fire, there is the potential for serious injuries, property damage, and death. In the event of an explosion, the force can be powerful enough to cause structural damage and spread the fire to other areas. Inhalation of combustible dust can also cause serious health issues, such as chronic lung diseases or cancer.  

Safety Measures 

It’s important to take the necessary safety measures to avoid combustible dust accumulations, fires, and explosions. Depending on the source, location, and environment, combustible dust may need to be removed on a regular basis. Good housekeeping practices should be followed, such as sweeping and vacuuming up dust. Additionally, workers should avoid smoking or bringing any other ignition sources into areas where combustible dust is present.  

To prevent a fire or explosion, employees should be educated on the risks of combustible dust and what to do in the event of an incident. Additionally, proper ventilation should be in place to minimize the accumulation of dust and potential ignition sources. 


[1]US Department of Labor revises OSHA’s Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program 

[2] Revised Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program  

[3] Revised Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program 


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