Thursday, May 29, 2008

Flare-up Combustible Dust Explosions/Fires

Over the past nine days a multitude of combustible dust related explosions and fires have occurred across eight states on both sides of the Mississippi in a myriad of manufacturing industries. Recent incidents include paper, wood, textile, chemical, and plastic manufacturing sectors.

The equipment involved includes a silo, oven, dryer, electrical panel , external burner, auger, and ductwork. Luckily, injuries have been limited to a burn victim in last week's unfortunate wood fiber silo explosion. Prayers still go out to the family and worker for a speedy recovery.

Overall economic damage is in the tens of thousands of dollars. Over 50% of the incidents are reoccurences with combustible dust as the culprit causing a repeat of a dust fire or explosion. For three days last week there was two combustible dust explosions and fires/day, totaling six incidents in three days.

Hopefully after the rash of 14 combustible dust fires and explosions for the month of May, no additional incidents will occur. So lets all cross our fingers for the next two days and pray that the dragon takes a much needed rest. If it keeps up at this pace, 2008 will accumulate a dismal scorecard of over 160 reported combustible dust fires and explosions.

This is in stark contrast to the average of 12 combustible dust explosions and fires/year that the Chemical Safety Board submitted in their Combustible Dust Hazard study with recommendations to OSHA for the period of 1980-2005, which included 281 incidents.

The problem with only acknowledging 281 incidents, is that over 90% of the complex issue concerning combustible dust has not been recognized by industry, governmental regulatory agencies, trade associations, safety professionals, and state/federal legislators. Until all stakeholders recognize and acknowledge that over 3,000 combustible dust explosions and fires have occurred in the past three decades then an understanding of the depth and breadth of the problem will be absent.

In the meantime incidents will occur throughout the nation's manufacturing industries with the explosive atmospheres generated daily in the workplace without precautionary preventative, mitigative, administrative, and technical control procedures.

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