NFIRS analysis of 2011 manufacturing sector workplace combustible dust related incidents indicated 14 injuries and 2 fatalities. For all items first ignited at manufacturing facilities including dust, NFIRS data indicated a total of 115 workplace injuries and 15 fatalities. In addition to workplace injuries 10 firefighters sustained injuries responding to combustible dust related incidents at manufacturing properties in 2011.
Currently about 23,000 fire departments report NFIRS data to the National Fire Data Center each year out of approximately 30,145 fire departments. (Source: U.S. Fire Administration and NFPA). As a result solely utilizing NFIRS data is not conclusive and does not provide a total count of incidents, injuries, fatalities, and property damage. In contrast, NFPA conducts a National Survey of fire departments in the development of a scaling ratio in conjunction with NFIRS data which assists in filling the gaps of insufficient NFIRS data.
Stakeholders are highly encouraged to review the informative NFPA report "Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities (2006-2010) " provided by NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division. For all types of fires the recent NFPA 2012 report noted an annual average of 22 fatalities and 300 injuries at industrial and manufacturing properties which also includes the utility, defense, agriculture, and mining sectors..
Evaluating NFIRS data stakeholders can observe emerging trends in NAICS, Area of Fire Origin, Heat Source, Type of Material First Ignited, Cause of Ignition, Factors Contributing to Ignition, Equipment Involved in Ignition (EII), Presence of Detectors, Presence of Automatic Extinguishing System, Casualties, Property Loss, etc. The next intermediate step in an evaluation is utilizing NFPA 550 Guide to the Fire Safety Concepts Tree then culminating with implementing control measures in the NFPA combustible dust standards, International Fire Code, and FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets.
The OSHA Combustible Dust; Advance notice of proposed rulemaking, Table 1--Industries Having at Least One Recorded Combustible Dust Incident Reported Since 1980 is misleading and not reality noting 422 combustible dust incidents in a 28 year time span or approximate average of 15 incidents annually. To fully understand the depth of the combustible dust problem in the workplace it is imperative the fire service be included in future dialogue regarding training, outreach, education, inspections, and enforcement.
Key stakeholders from the fire service having intimate knowledge of fire and explosion hazards in non-residential building structures include: International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), and National Fire Information Council (NFIC).
Appropriately the contentious issue of combustible dust hazards in the workplace is primarily a fire hazard and secondarily an explosion hazard. Subsequently, the majority of combustible dust related incidents are non-consequential (near misses) fires with no injuries, fatalities, nor property damage. This results in a disturbing mindset of "normalization of deviation" where facility owners and managers falsely believe that since nothing bad has happened in the past then nothing bad will happen in the future. Initially addressing the fire hazards will eliminate the possibility of secondary catastrophic dust explosions or disastrous flash fires.