A U.S. senator from Kansas believes USDA can help OSHA reduce the threat of grain dust explosions in the nation's elevators.
Agriculture inspectors visiting grain elevators should share information about potential dust problems with federal safety officials to reduce the potential for deadly explosions, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said Wednesday.
``I think that's a good, common-sense approach in the near term,'' he said.
The senator this week toured the site of a June 8 elevator explosion in Haysville, just south of Wichita. The blast devastated one of the state's largest grain storage facilities and killed five workers. A sixth man, Howard Goin, is missing and presumed dead.
Cause of the DeBruce Grain explosion, which also injured 11 people, remains under investigation. Grain in 14 of 246 silos continues to burn.
Brownback said U.S. Department of Agriculture employees currently inspect elevators to assess grain quality and quantity. USDA leaves safety reviews, including tracking of abnormal grain dust concentrations, to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The senator said he liked an idea raised by USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, a former Kansas congressman, that would have USDA inspectors report apparent dust problems directly to OSHA.
OSHA's assignment is to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities among more than 100 million workers at worksites throughout the nation.
USDA actually makes it inside grain elevators more frequently than OSHA, Brownback said.
Brownback said he wouldn't consider legislation to compel more stringent attention to elevator safety until an investigation of the Haysville accident was completed.
In other issues:
- Brownback voted Wednesday with the GOP to kill the Senate tobacco bill, which would have charged tobacco companies $516 billion over 25 years and would have raised cigarette taxes by $1.10 a pack. He prefers a $368 billion settlement reached by states and the tobacco industry a year ago. The senator said the settlement would have limited cigarette ads, while the Senate bill wouldn't adequately restrict the industry's ability to advertise.
``That's what I really think you've got to get at to limit teen smoking,'' Brownback said.
- The senator said congressional hearings this week indicated parental advisory labels applied to CDs, tapes and albums by the recording industry didn't deter people under 18 years of age from buying music that glamorized violence and hate.
``These labels do not work in blocking underage purchases,'' he said.
-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.