Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Georgia Combustible Dust Fire Ends Shift Work

Over the weekend at Quality Carpet Cushion on the northern outskirts of Lafayette, Georgia as the evening crew were beginning their shift, a combustible dust related fire flared up adjacent to machinery that chops and shreds recycled foam in the manufacture of bonded polyurethane carpet padding. Dozens of firefighters from surrounding communities responded to the four alarm fire and finally where able to quench the billowing inferno 20 hours later the following day according to news reports.

Company officials have yet to comment concerning the incident, yet the entire shell-shocked town of Lafayette is still trying to recover from the dismal Sunday where approximately 100 workers in the community depend on the plant for their livelihood. Luckily there were no injuries only an overwhelming negative economic impact on a small town community that is already feeling the ripples of a nationwide housing slump and no hope for the future since the facility was gutted out with fire and water damage.

Combustible dusts are generated from the grinding process of the combustible particulate solids of polyurethane which has a minimum ignition temperature close to the heat of a recently extinguished wooden matchstick . Inattentive housekeeping is a leading factor in combustible dust fires and explosions such as the tragic event that claimed 13 lives and over 50 injuries in Port Wentworth, Georgia nearly two months at the Imperial Sugar Refinery. Remove the fuel from the fire triangle and the possibility of a fire is also removed.

Removing the fuel factor is easier said than done. Especially when the workspace also becomes part of the manufacturing process; compounded with a process that grinds over 4 million pounds of combustible particulate solids (polyurethane) a month in suppling consumer demand for bonded carpet padding . With over two dozen nationwide facilities similar to Quality Carpet Cushion in the manufacturing of bonded polyurethane carpet padding, industry trade associations such as the Carpet Cushion Council and Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry need to convene as a collaborative group to reevaluate the manufacturing process in the prevention and mitigation of future combustible dust incidents.

As it stands now everyone is on borrowed time, as LaFayette Public Safety Director Tommy Freeman succinctly stated:

In any manufacturing plant they have a buildup of dust and soot that floats around in the air and settles everywhere. Over time this accumulates. A simple fire under these circumstances can cause a flash-burn or -fire, because that dust is extremely flammable.........“The plant has had other fires in the past but were small and in different proximity,” Freeman said. He said all manufacturing plants have fires from time to time." Source: Walker County Messenger/Larry Brooks

In the meantime there won't be any shift work at the Quality Carpet Cushion for awhile.

Shift work, hard work, tired body
Blue-collar shirt and a baseball cap
Union made

He's hot, sweat drops, 'round the clock
Door never locks
And the noise never stops

Night or day
Work seven to three
Three to eleven
Eleven to seven

Shiftwork Lyrics by Kenny Chesney :

Resource: News Channel 9 Video


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