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Textile Groups Urge OSHA To Avoid Unnecessary Regulations

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

In response to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plan to issue a regulation covering combustible dust in factories, the National Cotton Council (NCC) and a number of textile organizations have urged the agency to "use caution" in regulating textile mills.

While supporting OSHA's overall efforts to improve safety in the workplace, NCC cautions OSHA to focus its efforts in this case to areas that have experienced problems with combustible dust and not attempt to regulate industries such as textiles that have "no demonstrated history of combustible dust incidents."

NCC referred to incidents cited in OSHA's advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and said they were not caused by combustible dust. The council said that industries that have no history of dust fires or dust explosions and can provide scientific backup information should be exempt from additional OSHA regulations.

NCC says it "takes exception" to listing incidents involving cotton ginning, claiming that "dust fires and dust explosions do not occur in cotton gins, and it would be virtually impossible for a dust fire or dust explosion to occur." Referring to tests performed at Texas A&M University's Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering that  indicate dust from a cotton gin `may not explode at any concentration, NCC has concluded that cotton gins, cotton warehouses, cotton lint or cottonseed handling operations "do not present an explosion potential because the minimum explosive concentration cannot be reached in those operations."

With respect to textile mills, NCC and the other groups said flatly that "dust fires and dust explosions do not occur in weaving, spinning, knitting and dyeing and finishing operations."

NCC also points out that OSHA has standards for housekeeping and ventilation in textile mills that reduce the potential for dust fires or explosions.

January 19, 2010