OSHA Dust Control Regulations: A Pocket Guide

OSHA dust control regulations and standards are primarily designed to protect the health and safety of workers exposed to harmful dust and particulate matter generated in industrial environments. Companies must comply with these regulations to avoid hefty fines and other penalties. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, does not mandate how dust is removed from the workplace, nor does it regulate dust collector systems. Their principal concern is the removal of harmful dust by companies or that the companies take preventative measures to protect their workers from the harmful effects of dust.

Various health issues and numerous hazards have long been associated with dust in the workplace. Dust generated in industrial facilities can be particularly harmful, affecting the sinuses, lungs, and the entire respiratory system, all of which can have serious health consequences. Some dust can also be exceptionally hazardous and threaten the safety of workers and, for that matter, everyone and everything within the vicinity of the facility if they are not adequately controlled.

Understanding OSHA Dust Regulations

A primary focus of OSHA dust regulations is on dust accumulation and the need for industries to maintain control of the hazards that dust presents in the workplace. In other words, safety regulations and dust collection guidelines are designed to prevent the concentration of dust in manufacturing plants and facilities that can threaten human health or safety. Even when low amounts of dust are generated in a facility, it can result in an unhealthy work environment, adversely affecting productivity. The accumulation and concentration of hazards like combustible dust can result in deflagration, flash fires, or dangerous explosions. 

To ensure worker health, OSHA dust regulations set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for worker exposure to total dust and respirable dust per day. Specific regulations pertaining to types of dust that can affect worker health, such as asbestos, coal dust, carbon black, lead dust, cotton dust, and silica. For those nonspecific types of dust generated from paper processing, wood dust, food products, or inert and nuisance dust that can lead to health issues, OSHA regulates under the Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated (PNOR). According to the industry or workplace, OSHA recommends that workers exposed to or working around harmful respirable dust like crystalline silica particles should wear respirators. 

Concerning particular dust hazards, while there is no specific regulation, OSHA can cite a violation under the General Duty Clause. The Clause is a provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Section 5(a)(1)) that requires employers to ensure each workplace is free from recognized hazards that could cause or likely cause serious physical harm or death to employees. 

OSHA has no standard to address combustible dust hazards in the workplace, though many other standards can be applied to enforce combustible dust safety. The General Duty Clause covers the dangers posed by explosive or combustible dust. For OSHA to prove that a company has violated the General Duty Clause, it must demonstrate that the business knew that a hazard existed in its workplace and did nothing to prevent or stop it. 

OSHA can also address combustible dust hazards through its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP), which first initiated on October 18, 2007. National Emphasis Programs are temporary OSHA-initiated programs that focus on particular hazards or high-hazard industries or on particular hazards like combustible dust. A National Emphasis Program can be implemented when there appears to be a developing or ongoing problem with worker safety and health. These programs are generally initiated when a situation like explosive or combustible dust requires special attention to protect people. OSHA’s most recent revised Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program directive (Number: CPL 03-00-008) became effective on January 30, 2023. 

Industrial Dust Control Solutions from CPE Filters

Because OSHA does not have a particular standard for removing dust from industrial environments, it does not regulate dust collector systems. That said, companies must take preventative measures to protect workers from the harmful effects of dust by implementing “engineering controls” to contain and limit combustible dust hazards. OSHA defines engineering controls as those measures that separate and segregate dust-generating processes. In other words, engineering control essentially represents using dust collector systems as a preventative measure to limit risks in and around such facilities where combustible dust is generated. 

In today’s industrial environments, all parties recognize the potential hazards that respirable, combustible, or explosive dust present in the workplace. To help keep your workplace safe, CPE Filters offers a full range of equipment and services for the containment and collection of harmful dust, fumes, and dry particulate matter to ensure your company complies with OSHA dust control regulations and standards. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more about our equipment and services.