Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Michigan Combustible Dust Fires Reoccurring

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How can there be two combustible dust fires in succession within one week like has recently occurred in Muskegon, Michigan at the metal finishing facility of Port City Industrial Finishing Inc? In last Tuesday’s incident the dust collector/silo sustained $120,000 of fire damage and yesterday courageous and heroic fast-acting employees emptied all 18 fire extinguishers in quenching another combustible dust fire in the vicinity of a dust collector/air handling unit inside the building.

Michigan Scorecard

Michigan is high on the national scorecard of a continual succession of preventable and predictable combustible dust explosions and fires. Of a 7.0 earthquake magnitude on the scale of the recent tragic Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion, the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan experienced a coal dust explosion nearly two decades ago on February 1, 1991, causing 6 fatalities and 30 injuries after the dust had settled.

Two short years would pass when on May 25, 2001 another fireball and combustible dust explosion would erupt in the state at a Georgia Pacific particle-board plant in Gaylord, Michigan. In this incident there were 15 injuries of which nearly half of them where from six firefighters who were extinguishing hot spots from the earlier fire when another combustible dust explosion erupted.

2001 Not a Good Year

Four months later on September 21, 2001 as investigators were still analyzing and writing their accidents reports on the Georgia-Pacific explosion another combustible dust explosion occurred at a Wayland, Michigan milk processing plant, which resulted in two injuries and minor damage to the facility.

2001 was not a good year for the nation or Michigan either concerning explosions that seemed to come out from nowhere. The New Year in 2002 fared no better and even before the dismal anniversary of the catastrophic coal dust explosion at the Ford Rouge Plant had turned its pages on the calendar another coal dust explosion raised its nasty head on January 16, 2002 on the banks of Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan.

At an electric services plant, a coal-fired boiler was being brought on-line where the coal feeding system had not been purged properly and an excessive amount of coal dust left in the system ignited, causing an explosion and leaving a fatality in its wake. The dragon had spoken and was not to be ignored.

National Problem

The last six years have been dormant in comparison to earthquakes’ with several combustible dust fires spread out through 2003 and 2004 with no fatalities or injuries,
synoymonous to tremors and warning signs. It’s now when a facility such as Port City Industrial Finishing, where two combustible fires occur in succession within a week that notice occurs. In retrospect, Michigan only had nine combustible dust incidents from 1989-2004 leaving 7 fatalities and 59 injuries.

Michigan is not being singled out in the scheme that the dragon has planned out. Since he lashed his ugly tail upon the serene western bank of the Savannah River at the Dixie Crystal sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia over two dozen combustible dust explosions and fires have occurred throughout the nation.

So how many more fatalities and injuries must occur before the issue is addressed and a mandatory OSHA comprehensive combustible dust standard is implemented utilizing National Fire Protection Association combustible dust codes?


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