Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Safety, Security, and Emergency Management

First Advisor

E. Scott Dunlap

Department Affiliation

Safety, Security, and Emergency Management

Second Advisor

Carolyn H. Harvey

Department Affiliation

Environmental Health Science

Third Advisor

D. Gary Brown

Department Affiliation

Environmental Health Science


This study examined the hazards associated with combustible dust, the need for an OSHA standard to assist in the prevention of combustible dust explosions, and the influence such a standard would have on employers in industries where combustible dust is used. The framework of this study was to compare and evaluate the performance of two companies that experienced a combustible dust explosion. Past Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health (KYOSH) inspection history was reviewed as well as all data collected prior to and after the explosions. The following information was reviewed: OSHA industry standards, OSHA Compliance Directives, NFPA codes and standards, additional consensus standards, and peer-reviewed journal articles. This study found that the most effective method of preventing a combustible dust explosion is implementing a combustible dust management program including emphasis on housekeeping and management of change. An OSHA combustible dust General Industry Standard would provide the knowledge and additional motivation to implement the necessary mitigation procedures to prevent a combustible dust explosion. However, it would be difficult to develop one single standard to cover combustible dust in every industry. One solution is that industries that are covered by additional industry consensus standards be exempt from the standard. An example would be a woodworking facility that is covered by NFPA 664, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities. Special care would have to be taken by OSHA with regard to how combustible dust is defined, if the standard is performance-based or specification-based, small versus large businesses, and economic concerns.