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OSHA resurrects wood dust standard.

Efforts to create a federal wood dust rule took a new turn June 30 when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration amended its 1971 "nuisance dust" standard to include wood dust.

The revised Air Contaminants Standard regulates wood dust as a "Particulate Not Otherwise Regulated" at 5 mg/[m.sup.3] for respirable dust and 15 mg/[m.sup.3] for total dust. (Respirable dust is dust so fine that it can travel to the lungs, while the particles that make up total dust are larger and generally get trapped in the nasal passages.)

All states must meet or exceed the new standard. Certain states with their own OSHA-approved agencies are enforcing the 1989 standard while others have chosen to enforce the new rule. North Carolina will abide by the new standard while it considers legislation to change it. Hawaii and Oregon are enforcing levels that were on the books before 1989. (See chart above.)

Basis for the standard

When the 1989 Air Contaminants Standard was vacated by the 11th Circuit Court last year, OSHA's 1971 Table Z-1-A standards went into effect. However, the 1971 standard did not apply to wood dust and the industry was left without a standard.

The table regulated dust as a "nuisance dust" at 5 mg/[m.sup.3] for respirable dust and 15 mg/[m.sup.3] for total dust. The table specified mineral dust in the standard, but since organic dust was not mentioned, a later court held that nuisance dust did not apply to wood dust. OSHA's revised standard states nuisance dust does apply to wood dust.

Industry recommendations

Though the revised rule is less stringent than the 1989 standard, industry organizations still recommend that shops enforce the limits of 5mg/[m.sup.3] for wood dust and 2.5 mg/[m.sup.3] for Western red cedar.

"Our position hasn't changed," said Dr. John Festa of the Inter-Industry Wood Dust Coordinating Committee, a coalition of more than 20 industry groups supporting the 5 mg/[m.sup.3] regulation. "We still believe that levels of 5 mg/[m.sup.3] or below are necessary to ensure worker comfort and safety."

Festa said OSHA reform legislation, which would reinstate the 1989 limits, could be enacted during the Clinton administration. "There seems to be a lot of interest in OSHA reform - there have been a number of bills introduced and that leads me to say that it is gaining momentum."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Author:Dunne, Beverly
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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