Imperial Sugar explosion death toll rises to 13, OSHA backs lack of standard before Congress, Ga. creates own standard, and we need more signatures

Regina Habersham , Georgia
"please do something my only child was killed please change the laws"- signature from petition

The Petition

OSHA has been twiddling it's thumbs about this matter for over a month, they have even read my site with all the stories urging readers to sign the petition

The petition which was started a few days after the Imperial Sugar, formerly Dixie Crystal, Refinery explosion. It was created by Tammy from the Weekly Toll Blog (the sister site of the USMWF-United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities)

Do something, you laxidasical*...

Now it has been over a month since it has been created and has been at the top of my site and while I have help to spread the petition to other sites and have gotten quite a few visitors here, there are only a small few who are taking the minute or 2 to sign it.

It seems that most of you do not really care to honor those who died and make sure that this doesn't happen again on American soil. Take a stand with Regina Habersham, who lost her only child to this blatant neglect of having a STANDARD RULE!

The petition is simple, it states that the undersigned want OSHA to adopt RULES on explosive dust, not just recommendations that companies can choose to abide by on a voluntary basis. From the petition:
We want OSHA to issue comprehensive combustible dust standards and we fully back the Committee on Education and Labor in their request to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao for answers and action based on the CBS investigations and recommendations.

The Big Labor Federations Agree "Something must be done"

On March 4th Joe's Union Review reported in the article "2 out of 2 giant labor federations agree, OSHA must adopt explosive dust standard, you can help, please sign the petition.":

All labor, both the AFL-CIO and Change To Win have been writing and acting to assure that OSHA will enact a STANDARD that all companies must follow in regards to explosive dust.

In the wake of the Imperial Sugar (formerly Dixie Crystal) dust explosion which killed 12 and has 11 more in critical condition. There has been a lot of awakening to the fact that OSHA can only recommend the strategy to defend against explosions in plants where there is a high possibility of an explosion due to combustible dust particles.

The Weekly Toll blog, which is the sister site of the USMWF- United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities, started a petition 2 days after the explosion, that states:

We want OSHA to issue comprehensive combustible dust standards and we fully back the Committee on Education and Labor in their request to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao for answers and action based on the CBS investigations and recommendations.
That petition can be found here also, at the top left hand side. It can also be found on the Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires blog, which was created by Watermon, who is the same man who created the Combustible dust accident Google map and is a contributer of the OSHA Underground blog.

A byproduct is that this is the first case in which I have noticed both labor federations as a united front. Both blogs are fighting for this. Both are spreading awareness with some of their top writers. While it would be nice if they mentioned Weekly Toll and the petition, I guess we'll take what we can get.
The E-Action I wish I knew about

On March 12th. of 2008, American Rights at Work, through their sister-site, ShameOnElaine.org, which highlights the misdeeds of Secretary Of Labor Elaine Chao, was asking us to send an E-Mail to our Congressmen (CC to Elaine herself) which would urge them to support H.R.5522 Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act of 2008, which would require the Secretary of Labor to issue interim and final occupational safety and health standards regarding worker exposure to combustible dust, and for other purposes which can be read about above.

OSHA, what a waste of our hard earned

OSHA has become an impudent, understaffed and underfunded Governmental agency which is supposed to be there before an accident happens, but which according to various sources is so understaffed that it would take 108 years, as of 2005 data*, to inspect every workplace in the United States just once and that doesn't take into the the budget cuts our wonderful administration has imposed on the agency since '05, $1 million was just taken away from the agency with the passage of the omnibus bill.

OSHA defends current standard, or lack thereof

OSHA sat through the hearing defending the current voluntary methods that are on the books already. According to Occupational Hazzards (3/13), during the hearing in front of Congress on the 12th., OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. stated:
the agency would consider rulemaking on combustible dust a “strong option,” but only if its investigation of the Feb. 7 Imperial Sugar refinery explosion and an inspection of existing standards – identified in OSHA's National Emphasis Program (NEP) – reveal that the standards don't adequately mitigate the potential for the hazards associated with combustible dust.

“We have 17 different standards that are applicable to combustible dust,” Foulke told members of the House Education and Labor Committee, noting that existing standards on ventilation and factory housekeeping can be used to address combustible dust hazards. “After the NEP has been in effect and we have conducted enough inspections we will evaluate and review the inspection data to determine if the standards we currently have are adequate to address combustible dust hazards.”

William Wright, board member and interim executive of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), argued that the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion was the deadliest industrial explosion in the United States since 1980 – killing 12 worker and critically injuring 11 others, and therefore, confirms the immediate need for OSHA to issue a mandatory measure for employers.

Not only that, but he affirmed that a regulatory standard would make employers highly aware of the engineering and safety practices needed to prevent dust explosions.

However, the OSHA chief remained adamant that a new standard may not be the solution to prevent more tragedies. He insisted that the agency's multi-pronged approach, which includes enforcement of standards, combined with education for employers and employees, should be effective enough to fight combustible dust hazards.

“The effectiveness of a standard always depends on how well employers implement the requirements, and many tragic accidents in the last decade could have been avoided or minimized if employers had complied with existing OSHA standards,” Foulke said.

Are you kidding me? For one second do we, the American public buy the idea that what is the rule is good enough? Rep. G.Miller (D-Ca.) had strong words for Mr.Foulke, which you can read in full at the Occupational Hazard story entitled "OSHA Not Issuing Combustible Dust Standard Anytime Soon" (3/13)

While OSHA fiddles, Ga. death toll rises to 13

Here's OSHA Underground, in their story entitled "While OSHA Fiddles..." (3/14):
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Another burn patient has died of injuries suffered in an explosion at a Georgia sugar refinery, bringing the death toll to 13.

Six patients remain in critical condition a little more than a month after the blast at the Imperial Sugar plant in Port Wentworth. Four are in serious condition.

Investigators have said the explosion was fueled by airborne sugar dust at the refinery, near Savannah. They have not yet determined what ignited it.
Standards an uphill battle, let's do it together

Unfortunately this is an uphill battle, the only way to enforce change is to let them know you are knowledgeable and willing to put your name to it, signing the petition is the first step, all the other sites that are taking action keeping each other informed is another, American Rights at Work should have sent myself, the AFL-CIO, WIN Radio, CTW, OSHA Underground and all other interested parties an E-Mail before the 12th. regarding the E-Mail to congress, It could have gotten a lot more response. I have a lot of Labor links on the left hand side of my site, I'm sure more than one would have ran a story. So in the future, lets keep one another posted of these events.

Georgia leading by example

There was however one step in the right direction which has come in this mess, the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John W. Oxendine issued new regulations for industries in the state of Georgia that produce inflammable dust. According to Occupational Hazards story "Georgia Issues Combustible Dust Regulations" (3/13)

“These regulations will set new standards for safety in industries that produce flammable dust in their manufacturing processes,” Oxendine said.

He said the new rules will require all industries in Georgia that produce combustible dust to draw up emergency plans, practice implementing the plans and train employees in evacuation techniques.

At Oxendine’s request, the International Fire Code Committee has approved for their final action hearings, requirements for factory fire emergency evacuation procedures and drills for the 2009 edition of the International Fire Code.

All manufacturers in Georgia will be required to have a designated safety officer. Monthly reporting will ensure that emergency plans are in place and drills are conducted, according to the rule. Additionally, the rule will require facilities making, processing or handling combustible particulate solids that create combustible dust to comply with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E-2004, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, as well as numerous other NFPA standards.

“The explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar plant was the most devastating loss of life in Georgia in 16 years,” Oxendine said. “I want to make sure this type of accident never happens again.”

Rep. John Barrow (D-GA.) spoke to the Congressional hearing on HR 5222, he stated "Georgia isn't waiting," and continued “[Oxendine] has exercised his authority under Georgia law to adopt the voluntary standards promulgated by the people who know best how to prevent these disasters from happening – the NFPA – and made them mandatory in Georgia.

Barrow further noted “We now have to worry about Americans losing their jobs to other Americans, just because they happen to live in states where they haven't learned the lessons of Imperial Sugar yet,” he said. “Unsafe competition is unfair competition.”

Get E-Active! It's easy.

This is an uphill fight, Get E-Active, sign the petition, left hand top of this site or any of the buttons below:
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*
laxidasical - (Slang) A state of sloth and apathy. An attitude of laziness. To be slack.
Example in use (1)"He lay in the hammock in a laxidasical manner, while his house fell down around him for want of maintenance" (2)"She laxidaically handed in her project assignment having done the least amount of research she could get away with."
*NOTE: Not sure the exact figures, but I know it's somewhere around that, may have been 137 years, or 108 inspectors in NYS, but I'm close. Yeah of course I'm right, according to The Hill in a 2005 article entitled To make American workers safer, strengthen OSHA

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