Federal OSHA Standards for Dust and Debris in the Workplace

OSHA protects workers from dust-related hazards in the workplace.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the part of the federal government's Department of Labor created to protect workers in the U.S. OSHA standards for dust and debris in the workplace protect employees by setting cleaning and protective equipment guidelines.

General Cleaning

General OSHA requirements tell employers to keep workplaces clean, orderly and sanitary. Therefore, workplaces should not have an excess of easily removable dust and debris. The same set of standards also tells employers to make sure workplace floors are clean.

Respiratory Protection

OSHA requires employers to make employees wear respirators when they may encounter respiratory hazards at the workplace, including unhealthy dusts. OSHA produces a table outlining the allowable amounts of different types of dust in workplace air (see Reference 3). Workers in environments with more dust than the allowable amount must wear respirators unless employers can reduce dust amounts through ventilation.

Combustible Dust

According to OSHA, some dusts, called combustible dusts, can become explosive. Since these dusts create such a safety hazard, employers must provide emergency action plans, ventilation systems, alarm systems, fire extinguishers, proper handling and storage procedures and equipment, and written communication to employees regarding the dust.


OSHA standards tell employers to maintain workplace aisles that have sufficient space for safe clearance. Aisles blocked by debris violate OSHA standards.

Oil Spill Debris Cleanup

Oil spill debris cleanup workers should have correct protective gear, as required by OSHA (see Reference 5). Workers who clean up debris that has not touched oil should get gloves from their employers, and employers should give workers who clean up debris that has oil on it oil-resistant gloves, coveralls and boots.