Combustible dust is an insidious workplace hazard in certain industries. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) offers publications that cover voluntary guidelines for employers and employees with information about combustible dust in certain industries and how employers can mitigate the potential for fire and explosions from combustible dust.
Causes of volatile dust explosions
Any material that is flammable can cause dust a dust explosion if the concentration of dust in the air falls within the explosive limits, and there is a source of ignition of the required energy for that dust cloud. (Dustexplosion.info) Examples of materials that can create explosive dust include:
- Food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain,
- Wood and paper
- Metals (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc)
A wide range of industries and different types of manufacturing, construction, fossil fuel power generation, chemical manufacturing, furniture and textile production, metal working and 3D printing and many others may be at risk for dust explosions. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that led to the deaths of 119 workers, injured 718, and extensively damaged numerous industrial facilities.
In September 2015, a maintenance technician who was operating a dust collector at an automotive parts manufacturer suffered serious burns when a dust explosion occurred. OSHA issued citations to the manufacturing company for one willful, 18 serious and one other-than-serious safety and health violation. In 2010 3 workers were killed in a titanium dust explosion, and 14 workers were killed in a sugar dust explosion.
Preventing dust explosions
OSHA has published volumes of regulations which address aspects of preventing combustible dust hazards which are both industry wide and industry specific, but all of them are based on the General Duty clause, which requires employers to, “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Safety and Health magazine recommends the following tips to prevent workplace dust explosions:
- Implement a hazardous dust inspection, testing, housekeeping and control program.
- Use proper dust collection systems.
- Regularly inspect for dust residues in open and hidden areas.
- If ignition sources are present, use cleaning methods that do not generate dust clouds.
- Control smoking, open flames and sparks, including mechanical sparks and friction.
How a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney can help when you have been injured at work
If you have suffered an injury at work and you have had to lose time at work due to your injury, you may want to schedule a consultation with a trusted Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney from Larry Pitt & Associates who will work hard to make sure that you receive all the compensation you deserve, and protect your rights when there is a dispute with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer.
Suffering a workplace injury whether it is a physical injury or an occupational disease from workplace exposure can put a strain on all areas of your life. The experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates do everything possible to protect your right to fair compensation when you have been injured at work. You are welcome to call 888.PITT.LAW or fill out our contact form to make an appointment for a free consultation at one of our multiple office locations. We proudly serve clients throughout Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.