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Combustible Dust Explosions

News reports and informative articles

Combustible dust can be destructive and very dangerous. Dust explosion news reports from all across the nation have reported combustible dust as the main source of fires and explosions in processing facilities. It's not just wood dust that is dangerous, there are news reports of explosions caused by dust from rubber, grain, sugar, plastic powder, and other materials. Many materials in a solid form may take large amounts of heat, flame, or energy to be combustible, but these same materials in a fine dust or powder are highly combustible. In a facility where processing materials to produce a commercial product is the objective, combustible dust can also be produced. Over time, dust accumulation on horizontal surfaces like rafters, shelves, and on top of machinery can hold the potential for hazardous conditions.

One spark or ember can set off a chain reaction. Processing equipment can produce sparks and, when mixed with combustible dust, can cause a small explosion. As the explosion expands out and produces a force that impacts the surrounding area, accumulated dust can be shaken off the rafters and other surfaces to mix with the air and be ignited by the first explosion. In a few seconds this chain reaction of explosions can reduce a facility down to its foundation causing equipment damage, structure damage, personnel injuries and even deaths.

Key OSHA Documents and Safety Videos

Protecting Workers from Combustible Dust Explosion Hazards

Protecting Workers from Combustible Dust Explosion Hazards

Combustible dusts can fuel a flash fire or explosion when dispersed in a dust cloud. Workers in many industries who handle combustible solids may be exposed to combustible dust incidents that can cause catastrophic destruction, injuries and deaths. Employers and workers should take the steps below to control the fuel and prevent tragic consequences.

STATUS REPORT on Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program

Types of Industries OSHA Inspected for Combustible Dust Hazards by Number

OSHA — The wood products, food products, chemicals, metal products and rubber / plastic products industries account for more than 70 percent of inspections under the NEP. 20 percent of combustible dust related violations pertain to housekeeping, 27 percent to Hazard Communication, and 11 percent each to electrical, personal protective equipment, fire extinguishers and hazards addressed by the General Duty Clause.

In the absence of an OSHA standard, OSHA can cite Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, the General Duty Clause, for serious hazards, such as fire and explosion hazards for which there are feasible means of abatement. OSHA has referenced NFPA standards 654, 484, 61, and 664 as potential means of abating combustible dust hazards in citations issued under the NEP. OSHA also referenced NFPA 499 in recommending safe practices for electrical equipment used in Class II locations, and NFPA 68 and 69 for explosion prevention and protection techniques. Some of the hazards cited under the General Duty Clause are listed.

Combustible Dust: An Insidious Hazard

U.S. Chemical Safety Board — Dust from industrial processes can become the fuel for devastating explosions. Investigation Details: Imperial Sugar Company Dust Explosion and Fire Hayes Lemmerz Dust Explosions and Fire CTA Acoustics Dust Explosion and Fire West Pharmaceutical Services Dust Explosion and Fire.

The Danger of Combustible Dust

CBS NEWS VIDEO — 60 MINUTES — Scott Pelley reports on the deaths and property damage caused by dust explosions at American factories, a problem critics say the government needs to do more to prevent.

Hazard Communication Guidance for Combustible Dusts

OSHA — Hazard Communication Guidance for Combustible Dusts is a new guidance document recently published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that assists chemical manufacturers and importers in recognizing the potential for dust explosions, identifying appropriate protective measures and the requirements for disseminating this information on material safety data sheets and labels. The document addresses the combustible dust hazards in relation to the Hazard Communication Standard, which is designed to ensure that chemical hazards are evaluated and the information concerning them is transmitted to employers and workers.

Combustable Dust Materials List

OSHA — Does your company or firm process any of these products or materials in powdered form? If your company or firm processes any of these products or materials, there is potential for a "Combustible Dust" explosion.

OSHA -- Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (Reissued)

This instruction contains policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that create or handle combustible dusts. In some circumstances these dusts may cause a deflagration, other fires, or an explosion. These dusts include, but are not limited to: • Metal dust such as aluminum and magnesium. • Wood dust • Coal and other carbon dusts. • Plastic dust and additives • Biosolids • Other organic dust such as sugar, flour, paper, soap, and dried blood. • Certain textile materials

OSHA Announces Rulemaking on Combustible Dust Hazards

OSHA National News Release: 09-475-NAT — Washington, DC — OSHA will issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and convene related stakeholder meetings to evaluate possible regulatory methods, and request data and comments on issues related to combustible dust such as hazard recognition, assessment, communication, defining combustible dust and other concerns.

News Reports and Informative Articles

Crews fight fire at KapStone paper machine

Longview, WA — "An image of the blaze that was sent around to media outlets was potentially taken before fire crews arrived, Bradshaw said. The picture is much more impressive than the story, he said. Likely the image appeared more dramatic because the dust was ablaze, he said. "

Taking precautions with grain dust - a hazard

Arlington, WI — "The Wisconsin Agri-Business Association works with grain facilities around the state to help them address safety issues at their facilities. Jim Nolte is the safety director for that organization. He points out that grain dust explosions are often severe, involving loss of life and substantial property damage. Over the last 35 years, there have been over 500 explosions in grain handling facilities across the United States, which have killed more than 180 people and injured more than 675. "

Mill Silo Fire

Douglas County, OR — "The first DCFD2 fire crew arrived to find the silo and three wood chip shaving bids were fully involved with fire. The mechanism of these explosions are a backdraft like phenomenon, which is the result of oxygen being introduced into areas built-up of heat and gases from incomplete combustion needing only a source of oxygen for a combustion explosion."

Wood pellet industry lauded for safety improvements

Prince Gorge, BC — "In only a few years´ time, the British Columbia wood pellet manufacturing sector went from one of the worst corporate citizens to one of the best, for employee safety, and broke some moulds along the way."

Wisconsin corn mill that exploded

Cambria, WI — "The cause of the blast remained unknown as of Thursday afternoon, Didion officials said. U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators were on the scene. [...] The plant processes corn for ethanol and other uses. A review of online OSHA records shows the plant was cited in January 2011 for exposing its workers to dust explosion hazards. The records state that plant filters lacked an explosion protective system."

VIDEO — No injuries after fiery dust explosion in Abbotsford

Abbotsford, BC — "It's just the dust meets oxygen and catches fire at a rapid pace," said Hull. "It can be very dangerous, it has a bit of a concussion feel to it. In the wrong conditions it can really hurt somebody."

YouTube link www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hS6IGO2tdA#!

WorkSafeBC Sued Over Sawmill Fires

BC — According to a report from the Canadian Press, employees of both mills filed the notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court. The members of the suit claim that WorkSafeBC was negligent in its investigations and inspections at both mills, especially in regards to combustible dust in both mills. The claim alleges that, in doing so, WorkSafeBC breached its fiduciary responsibilities.

Fire Breaks Out

Erlanger, Ky — Fire officials said dust inside the silo could have led to the explosion. The fire burned through panels to the side and back of the building."Anytime you´re dealing with any kind of dust or whatever you have a chance of explosion. That´s always a hazard in that kind of operation. There´s all kinds of dust hazards. This just happens to involve a sugar product," Point Pleasant Assistant Fire Chief Bill Martin said.

Wood Pellet Factory Burns

Seymour, Mo — Nearby residents say they heard an explosion before the fire was seen. The company makes wood pellets from sawdust for heating stoves.

Wood Pellet Factory Burns to Ground

Cookville, NS — A wood pellet plant in Cookville, Lunenburg County, was destroyed after a fire broke out late Thursday afternoon. Nine fire departments battled the blaze which was brought under control within a few hours. This video shows a blazing fire fulled by wood pellets and is uncontrollable.

Fire At Wood Pellet Mill In Isabella County

Sherman, MI — The plant manager says it started in the plant's cooler, then spread to the bag room where it was contained. [...] "You just gotta think smart, don't get upset or just paranoid because you've got a fire, just common sense. I train these guys here, all new crew here, the biggest thing is to shut your blowers off to cut the oxygen to the fire to keep it at a minimum," said plant manager Roger Nelson."

OSHA Clarifies Enforcement Guidance on Combustible Dust

"The Association asked OSHA to explain to the agency's inspectors that they should consider the unique characteristics of a dust – such as its bulk density – instead of basing assessments on whether dust accumulation simply surpasses 1/32 of an inch (about the diameter of a paper clip), an OSHA spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA."

Dust Explosions Linked to Cold Weather

British Columbia — "Also, when humidity levels are low, like those seen in winter months, dust can easily disperse and ignite, increasing the risk. In fact, industrial accident investigations by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that seven out of eight fatal combustible dust explosions from 1995 to 2009 occurred during cold winter months when these weather conditions were most prominent."

Crews Battle Fire After Explosion at Food Chemical Plant

Kansas City, MO — "When you're manufacturing all this, you have a lot of dust, which is explosive. So they have collectors to try to clean all that up and contain it. Every now and then something goes wrong and you'll have a small explosion, in this case it was a bit bigger explosion," Fire Chief Ron Graham said.

OSHA's Increased Enforcement of Facilities with Combustible Dusts Hazards

"The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) continues to issue citations for alleged violations of various general industry standards (such as general housekeeping and electrical standards) and Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the General Duty Clause ("GDC"), for alleged workplace exposure to fire and/or explosion hazards from "combustible dust," despite the lack of a clear and comprehensive general industry standard governing employers' handling of combustible dusts. "

Four workers suffer burns in grain-dust explosion at Arizona factory

Flagstaff, AZ — "Flagstaff Fire Dept. Captain Bill Morse said that the four men were welding on the fifth floor of the complex's seven-story grain elevator when their torches sparked grain dust and set off the explosion at around 5 p.m. local time."

The Danger of Combustible Dust

The New York Times — "The disaster in China resembles, on a larger scale, accidents that have occurred all too frequently in the United States. Since 2003, the United States Chemical Safety Board, the independent federal agency of which I am the chairman, has been investigating these accidents. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that accidents with high numbers of fatalities aren't possible here, too."

Hampering Hazards

Snuffing Sparks —
The best method of tackling an issue is to address it before it happens. With that kind of foresight, modern biomass power plants turn to spark detection and extinguishing systems to prevent tiny embers from becoming larger problems. "These hot particles and sparks can cause a problem at any time and you will never know it until it is too late," says Terry Franklin, technical sales director at GreCon. "It's better to be safe and have a system that can spot the troubles and react to it."

The greatest potential for spark-initiated fires could come from older operations with complacent safety practices. In older plants, personnel may feel somewhat invincible since their processes have not experienced an incident involving fires caused by sparks. "When developers are building a new plant, a new bag house, or [installing] new equipment, they are forced to look at installing the technology from the beginning, or they won't be able to get their permit," Franklin explains.

Inspection of BC sawmills reveals mixed results

British Columbia — "WorkSafeBC has released a report on its recent three-month series of sawmill inspections across British Columbia. The report was released on March 4. The inspections found that while approximately 57 per cent of locations were in compliance with combustible dust regulations, the remaining mills had unacceptable dust accumulation levels."

Combustible Dust Compliance: Avoiding Common Pitfalls

"Combustible dust explosions are a risk in many areas of an industrial plant, and one of the likeliest locations for an explosion is in the plant's dust collection system. To minimize the chance of an explosion, the NFPA sets standards to protect industrial facilities, and OSHA is tasked with enforcing these standards. A range of problems can contribute to explosion risk, but some common denominators exist."

OSHA Issues Guidance for Inspectors on Combustible Dust

"OSHA inspectors must consider a manufacturer's or importer's use of information gained from actual explosion events, lab testing, published data on similar materials or particle size to assure they have properly classified their products for combustible dust hazards under the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), OSHA said in a recent guidance memorandum.

The agency's HCS was revised to bring it into harmony with a global standard. Since that standard does not contain a classification for combustible dust hazards, OSHA amended the standard's definition of "hazardous chemical" to include combustible dust so as to maintain coverage of the hazard under its HCS.

That move has put the agency in conflict with industry stakeholders who claim inclusion of combustible dust in the new rule amounts to backdoor rulemaking. A lawsuit over the agency action is currently playing out in federal appeals court. "

Did Combustible Dust Cause Omaha Plant Explosion?

Omaha, NE — "Combustible dust is being investigated as a possible cause of the January 20 explosion and collapse of a livestock feed manufacturing plant in Omaha, NE.

"Staff from my department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are on-site and will conduct a full and thorough investigation. There are many questions yet to be answered about what caused this disaster," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.

A Wall St. Journal article and several local media reports have stated that grain dust may have ignited and caused the explosion at the plant. There are also reports that the explosion may have been caused by a roof collapse."

Omaha Building Collapse: 2 Killed, at Least 10 Hurt at Feed Plant

Omaha, NE — "There was this real loud crackling sound and the lights went off," Houston was quoted as saying on the paper's website. "I saw a spark and there was a big ball of flame coming from the southwest corner of the building."

How Can Manufacturers Reduce the Risk of Dust Fires and Explosions?

Combustible dust fires are an ever-present risk in processing industries across the country and are a much bigger problem than reported by the federal government. These combustible dust fires are often precursors to catastrophic explosions. In fact, most dust can be combustible under the right circumstances.

Safety Scene: Industrial Explosions

Since the catastrophic Imperial Sugar explosion [...] most food processors recognized some potential for combustible dust explosions and "deflagration," which refers to the catastrophic pressure wave caused by the startled cloud of dust triggered (and ignited) by the initial explosion. However, so many factors are at play that even comparable "baking" facilities may present widely varying amounts of problems, or none at all.
[...] An attitude of "we've never had a problem before" is a significant problem. Processors would do well to remember that the sugar refinery had gone over 90 years without an event... until one factor changed. Many food processes and equipment have not changed in many years, and combustible dust control was not the manufacturer's concern when they were developed.

Dust Explosions in the Food Industry

The vast majority of powders in the food industry can form explosible dust clouds if the particle size is small and moisture content is low. Although explosible dust cloud concentrations are not normally expected to be present within processing buildings, explosible dust clouds are regularly formed inside material handling or processing equipment when bins are being filled, powders are being transferred or dust is being collected in a dust collector.

Bioproducts Company to Train Employees with Combustible Dust Simulator

Cedar Rapids, IA — Penford Products has a new combustible dust simulator that it will use in its safety training program, the company announced May 21. Penford Products developed it in partnership with Iowa State University's American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ISU ASABE), having partnered with ISU ASABE to train and educate both students and employees on potential dust hazards in the grain milling industry. A group of student engineers visited the company's Cedar Rapids plant April 25 to demonstrate the simulator.

Dust Collector Fire and Explosion Highlights Need for Combustible Dust Considerations In System Designs

A massive fire and explosion in the dust collection system of a New Hampshire wood pellet manufacturer demonstrates the need for adequate system design to prevent combustible dust explosions in general industry.

Jaffrey, NH — On October 20 2011, a combustible dust fire began in the wood pellet cooler, most likely caused by a spark or ember from the pellet hammer mill. The fire then spread through the ductwork throughout the plant, eventually reaching the dust collector causing it to explode. When the collector exploded, the explosion vented through the baghouse's explosion vents into adjacent storage silos setting them ablaze further spread the fire throughout the plant. More than 100 firefighters and emergency personnel from at least 14 towns worked for over 15 hours to put out the blaze.

B.C. wood dust explosive risk increases in winter: WorkSafeBC

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Safety agency calls on industry to address the issue

Vancouver, B.C. — Wood manufacturers need to take steps to reduce the increased risk of dust explosions during the winter, warns WorkSafeBC. In a hazard alert issued last week, the province's chief workplace safety agency said during cold winter months, dust is easier to disperse and ignite because of low humidity. One of two deadly sawmill explosions in northern B.C. earlier this year took place during a deep freeze in January. The U.S. Chemical Safety board put out a similar warning in 2009, finding seven of eight fatal combustible dust explosions from 1995 to 2009 took place during cold winter months. [...] The warning was issued to a wide range of plants: sawmills; plywood, pellet and secondary manufacturers; and pulp and paper mills.

Combustible Dust Winter Alert - Increased Risk

The risk of a dust explosion increases when low humidity levels, like those seen in winter months, make dust easy to disperse and ignite. [...] One of the two tragic sawmill incidents in British Columbia occurred in the middle of winter, the second occurred in early spring.

Also during winter maintenance check your Spark Detection System for proper operation. These checks should be conducted monthly or more frequently depending on results of these checks. Use caution when conducing any maintenance and follow local guidelines and regualtions. Check your equipment manual for additional information.

Control Console — Check housing for damage inside and out, all cables, components and batteries.

Spark Sensors — Remove sensors from adapter and check lens, adapter and cable for damage. Clean lens.

Water Pressure Booster Pump — Check pump, pressure switches, and pipes and tanks for damage or leaks.

Extinguishing Devices — Inspect pipes, solenoid valve and nozzle. Check electrical connection and clean Y-strainer. Release solenoid valve and check water flow. Also check heat trace system for water pipes exposed to freezing temperatures.

Abort or Diversion Gates — Check gates for damage, accumulated material, damage or warn gasket, and for proper operation.

Explosion Mitigation in NFPA 61 and NFPA 654

East Rutherford, NJ. — Workers at the U.S. Ink plant in East Rutherford were mixing newspaper ink in a vat when a carbon compound apparently ignited around 1:15 p.m.

Green wood dust as explosive as dust from beetle-killed wood: WorksafeBC

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Vancouver, BC — WorksafeBC has found that dust from green wood can be as combustible as dust from pine beetle-infested wood as the organization continues to investigate two B.C. mill explosions earlier this year.[...] Last month, WorksafeBC sent green wood dust samples to a lab in the U.S. to be compared against dust from beetle-kill wood. The results show that when dust from green wood – wood that was felled when the tree was still alive – has a moisture content under five per cent, and when the dust particle is of a certain size, it can be just as explosive as beetle-kill wood when ignited.

[Part of the ANSI testing process is to dry the wood to under 5% moisture before sizing it and igniting testing. NFPA defines Green Wood as having 25% moisture. Did they test green wood or just dry wood? Is green wood still wood? Does moisture content mater as green wood dust sitting in a hot motor can dry out to 5% moisture? WorksafeBC is trying to say: To be safe, clean up any wood dust.]

Vancouver Sun says Lakeland Mills sawmill warned multiple times before fatal blast

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Inspection photos show dust buildup at Prince George facility

Prince George, BC — Five months before a deadly explosion at Lakeland Mills sawmill, photos show combustible wood dust built up on ledges, under a machine, and on hand railings, light fixtures and pipes for the water-sprinkler system.

Explosion Mitigation in NFPA 61 and NFPA 654

Video — Fire protection engineer Derek Duval talks about key revisions to the NFPA 61 and NFPA 654 combustible dust safety standards.

Three fire departments respond to Tyler Pipe

Tyler, TX — "The fire was inside here. There's actually a little level here, and near the top and down there are some four-foot canisters that caught on fire. All this was burning, all this was open with smoke when we arrived, and we opened the door on the back so we could see through the whole thing. We didn't see any fire when we opened the doors. Once we took a temperature reading it tacked the gun out, so I'm guessing around 2,000 degrees inside. We got to see the middle was orange, it was glowing on the inside. It was that hot," Captain Wallert said, pointing at the bag house which is about the size of a small silo.

Dust to Dust

OHS Canada

British Columbia — [...] It did, however, reveal in a statement in May the ignition sources in both investigations appear to have been located at the conveyor belt level where electrical and/or mechanical equipment was in operation in areas contained by walls and equipment. These areas are located at the basement or lower level of both mills. Officers inspecting all sawmills and associated site facilities under the directive order "will be paying particular, but not exclusive, attention to areas similar to those identified in the Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills investigations," the statement notes.

OSHA Cites Texas Electronics Recycler

Electronic Recycling and Trading cited after plant explosion injured two employees.

Austin, TX — "Employers must ensure their workplaces are evaluated for hazards and take corrective action before a dangerous incident such as this occurs," says Casey Perkins, OSHA area director in Austin. "Combustible dust hazards can be controlled by implementing multiple safeguards, such as installing proper exhaust ventilation systems."

WorkSafeBC Adds Wood Plants to ComDust Watch List

Richmond, BC — "WorkSafeBC has expanded its crackdown on combustible dust to include wood and paper operations. WorkSafeBC said it was entering into Phase II of its combustible dust strategy and expanding the scope beyond sawmills to include "similar wood processing operations where dust accumulation could be a safety hazard."

OSHA ComDust Standard Sorely Needed, Imperial Sugar's CEO Says

A look at what has changed four years later.

Indianapolis, IN — "I experienced firsthand the power and destructive force that a combustible dust explosion can have, and I can assure you that most of the people in this room would underestimate [that power]," [Imperial Sugar CEO John C. Sheptor] said, addressing a large ballroom with hundreds of people in the audience. "I am very pleased with our company's response to our incident," he said later. "I am relatively pleased by my industry's response. Where I am most displeased is that we still do not have a standard from Washington. . . . There needs to be a standard that educates on proper ways to manage combustible dust hazards."

Unchecked dust explosions kill, injure hundreds of workers

An in-depth look at the combustible dust issues.

Gallatin, TN — In the early morning of January 31, 2011, [a worker] was called to check out a malfunctioning bucket elevator that totes dust through the plant. Near his feet, electrical wires lay exposed. When the machine restarted, the jolt knocked dust into the air. A spark – likely from the exposed wires, investigators later concluded – turned the dust cloud into a ball of flame that engulfed [the worker] and a co-worker.

[…] A dust fire is, in a sense, the result of a perfect storm. The powder has to form a cloud in a confined area and touch an ignition source, such as a spark, flame or overheated pipe. "It's this unlikeliness that leads people to the false sense of security that it can't occur," said John Cholin, an engineer who has investigated dust accidents for 30 years and has a consulting firm.

Often, workers don't know that the dust lurking on flat surfaces could, when dispersed in a cloud, fuel a violent explosion. But experts, worker safety advocates and government officials have been sounding alarms for years.

Knowledge of wood-dust explosions not widespread in B.C. industry

Vancouver, BC — While other companies in the B.C. forest sector had practices in place to control dust because it could clog up machinery and pose fire and respiratory health risks, Weyerhaeuser and Norbord Inc. had created specific programs aimed at reducing an identified risk of explosion caused by wood dust, according to the 385-page report.

The report Wood Dust In Sawmills, Compilation of Industry Best Practices (15 megabyte file), is a compilation of company dust-control practices, dust-control equipment information and dust-control recommendations from insurance companies assembled by industry representatives following the latest fatal explosion on April 23. United Steelworkers, the B.C. Forest Safety Council and WorkSafeBC also provided input.

Wood Dust In Sawmills, Compilation of Industry Best Practices includes other resources

Mountain Pine Beetle Infested Trees Moisture Content in Evaluating Fire & Explosion Hazards

John Astad, Combustible Dust Policy Institute — A problem arises when the science is not applied when conducting a hazard evaluation of the fire and explosion properties of wood dust. When the raw material input changes from green wood with high moisture content to low moisture content MPB infested trees a management of change (MOC) is warranted. [...] The problem we have now is that industry has not utilized the wealth of scientific data acquired in the Mountain Pine Beetle Initiative (MPBI) in assessing fire and explosion risk when these infested trees are processed.

Mountain Pine Beetle Initiative (MPBI)

Pellet Maker Faults OSHA

New Hampsire — The fire started in the pellet mill, was transported through several conveying systems to a pellet cooler and then to a dust collector, and caused several other flash fires, OSHA said in a news release Friday.

How to Stay Safe from OSHA! Recent Industry Fines Offer Lessons on OSHA Enforcement Trends

Since 2008, OSHA has made a pointed effort to crack down on companies that could pose a combustible dust risk through its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program. As a result, the possibility of related citations and fines is now especially high for companies in the forest products industry. Although OSHA, at present, does not have a specific standard on combustible dust hazards, there are several existing standards that apply to combustible dust handling facilities. The emphasis program focuses on these standards, as well as the General Duty Clause.

Ensuring Safety of Other Mills Top Priority Now

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British Columbia — As a result, no one can say for certain even if the two fatal fires were caused by the same thing. ... The sawdust from beetle-killed trees, which both mills were processing, is believed to be more dangerous than dust from living trees, possibly because it is finer and drier. So even if the two accidents may not be related, cleaning up potentially hazardous sawdust is a worthwhile step for mills, as long as it is done safely.

OSHA Announces Alignment of Haz Comm Standard with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals

Washington DC — OSHA has not provided a definition for combustible dust to the final Haz Comm standard, given ongoing activities in the specific rulemaking, as well as in the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the GHS (UN/SCEGHS). However, guidance is being provided through existing documents, including the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program Directive (CPL 03-00-008), which includes an operative definition, as well as provides information about current responsibilities in this area. In addition, there are a number of voluntary industry consensus standards (particularly those of the NFPA) that address combustible dust. In the final Haz Comm standard, combustible dust hazards must be addressed on labels and safety data sheets. Label elements are provided for combustible dust in the final standard, and include the signal word "warning" and the hazard statement, "May form combustible dust concentrations in the air."

Iron in the Fire

Gallatin, TN — Three iron dust fires in 2011 fatally injure 5 workers. This new Chemical Safety Board (CSB) video dipicts the three accidents involving combustible iron dust. It shows how fine metal particles were lofted and inginted in two incidens, and a hydrogen explosion and subsequent flash fire caused by lofted metal dust killed a total of five works and injured three others.

Flash Fire in a Kentucky plastics company

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Henderson, KY — A western Kentucky plastics company that operates a plant where four people were injured in a flash fire had previously been fined $26,650 by state labor officials for safety violations deemed serious, Kentucky officials said Thursday.

Two injured in dust explosion and fire at Jeffersontown business

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Louisville, KY — Two saw workers were checking a filter for a dust collector with a metal rod around when the rod apparently touched something that caused a spark and ignited a dust explosion that rose more than 50 feet in the air.

Pictures Show Combustible Dust Throughout Plant

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Gallatin, TN — "One picture shows several inches of dust on a beam in the building. A simple spark can ignite the dust causing a flash fire, which burns quickly at extremely hot temperatures.

OSHA cites South Georgia Manufacture with 46 serious safety and health violations

Savannah, GA — "After receiving a complaint, OSHA began an inspection in August 2010 at the company's site in Willacoochee, Ga. Serious citations were issued for violations that included exposing workers to explosion hazards resulting from inadequate dust control, exposing workers to dust without respiratory protection, failing to clean up thick dust accumulations, using unapproved electrical equipment and forklifts in locations that may include flammable or combustible materials, absence of a fire extinguisher in a straw storage area and fire extinguishers missing from their mounts."

"Combustible dust is a major safety and health hazard, and employers must recognize and correct hazards that expose their employees to death or serious physical harm," said Robert Vazzi, OSHA's area director in Savannah.

Combustible Dust Settlement

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Port Wentworth, GA — "After an investigation, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) concluded that the explosion was caused by ongoing releases of sugar from inadequately designed and maintained dust collection equipment, conveyors, and sugar handling equipment. Also, inadequate housekeeping practices allowed highly combustible sugar dust and granulated sugar to build up throughout the refinery's packing buildings, said CSB."


Recycling Today — "When shredding electronics, hard drives and some products sparks can be created. If the spark reaches the dust collector, it could ignite a fire or cause an explosion," Dietterich says. "The dust generated from shredding these items has different explosive characteristics than paper dust as measured by the Kst factor of the dust." He adds, "... The conveyance ducting should be equipped with a flame and spark detection and extinguishing system that will detect and extinguish the flame or spark while moving through the ductwork prior to entering the dust collector."

Dust fire fourth since 2003 at plant

KREAMER, PA. — Tuesday's fiery explosion in a Wood-Mode Inc. sawdust silo is the fourth in seven years, a record that jibes with national research suggesting that combustible dust is a serious industrial hazard.

Industries tell OSHA officials that regulating dust can be complex, expensive

ATLANTA, GA. — Most of the comments cautioned against applying too strict of a standard to every industry, from food processing to sand blasting to coal dust at neighborhood print shops. [...] Cost estimates for compliance ranged from $2,000 to test dust for combustibility to as much as $30 million to upgrade a power plant.

Retain Existing Grain Handling Safety Rules

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Washington, D.C. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to retain its existing grain-handling facility standard, and to exempt grain elevators, feed mills and grain processing plants already covered by those regulations from its planned development of a comprehensive combustible dust standard.

OSHA Schedules Meetings on Combustible Dust Hazards

Atlanta, GA — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has scheduled two informal stakeholder meetingsto solicit comments and suggestions on combustible dust hazards in the workplace. OSHA will use comments from these meetings in developing a proposed standard for combustible dust. The meetings are scheduled for February 17, 2010, 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., at the Marriott Perimeter Center, 246 Perimeter Center Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30346.

Combustible dusts may be present from wood, coal, plastics, biosolids, candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed, grain, fertilizer, tobacco, paper, soap, rubber, drugs, dried blood, dyes, certain textiles, and metals, according to OSHA, and in industries that include animal food manufacturing, grain handling, food manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, textile manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, metal processing, fabricated metal products and machinery manufacturing, pesticide manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, tire manufacturing, plastics and rubber products manufacturing, recycling, wastewater treatment, and coal handling.

Dust Explosion Rocks North Portland Land O' Lakes Plant

Portland, OR — The explosion was on the third-floor of the plant 15840 N. Simmons Road. A machine called "corn cracker" had created a dust explosion. No employees were in the area of the blast.

Hot Work Adjacent to Explosive Atmopheres

Combustible Dust Policy Institute — Initially when reading the recent news account of a worker that ignited flammable vapors causing an explosion while using a hand grinder to cut bolts embedded in the floor, it had not donned on me the gravity of the situation. That was until Jeffrey C. Nichols, President, South East Fire Prevention, Inc sent me an email this morning reminding me it could also happen with combustible dust. That is true, combustible dust provides explosive atmospheres just like flammable gases, vapors, liquids, and mists.

Two Recent Wood Dust Related OSHA Cases Hit Home

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ISWONLINE — Last month, ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturer... was fined $108,700 and cited for six repeat violations and six serious violations stemming from a Jan. 20 inspection of its manufacturing plant in Tiffin, OH. Many of the alleged violations involved potential dust hazards, including failure to maintain and install spark detection and suppression equipment in several of the plant's dust collectors.

In another recent case, OSHA levied more than $255,000 in fines for 60 alleged safety and health hazards against..., a manufacturer of firearms based in Newport, NH. According to OSHA, "safety hazards included the lack of spark detectors or suppression systems to minimize fire and explosion hazards in ventilation systems that collect combustible wood and metal dust, allowing combustible dust to accumulate."

Pellet mill damaged in explosion

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Strong, ME — A 1:30 a.m. explosion Saturday in the rear of the building blew most of the structure apart and shook the town awake. Many onlookers drove from towns several miles away after hearing the blast. Windows were either shattered or blown out onto the street below, and doors on the loading dock bulged from the pressure.

OSHA focuses on combustible dust hazards at Georgia sites

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Over the last 16 months, compliance officers from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have made 32 visits to Georgia companies where employees may be exposed to potential combustible dust hazards. The result has been 311 citations for workplace safety and health violations, with 90 percent categorized as willful, serious, repeat or failure to abate.

Clearing the Dust on Process Safety
Are plants relying too much on industrywide data and technology to protect their workers?

More than one year after the incident, Sheptor says the refinery located near Savannah is on the road to recovery with newly implemented safety features and standards aimed at minimizing the presence of sugar dust, which two federal agencies concluded was a primary contributor to the explosion.

Combustible Dust Dangers:
Too Dangerous for a 'Wait and See' Approach

The list goes on, involving a wide range of industries and types of combustible dust. This is a list your organization never wants to be on, yet OSHA estimates 30,000 U.S. facilities may be at risk for combustible dust incidents. This article provides background on combustible dust issues to help you evaluate whether your organization is doing everything it can to minimize that risk.

Height of silos a challenge for firefighters

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Hicksville, OH — 'Anytime you get a grain bin or silo fire there is a risk for a dust explosion,' Miller said. 'The best part is when you have a safe outcome. Our main concern was the possibility of explosion. Nobody was hurt. That was our main goal and we accomplished that.'

Feds target combustible dust, an issue at Savannah sugar plant

Washington, DC — OSHA will issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and convene related stakeholder meetings to evaluate possible regulatory methods, and request data and comments on issues related to combustible dust such as hazard recognition, assessment, communication, defining combustible dust and other concerns.

Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act of 2009

Washington, DC — This version: Introduced in House. This is the original text of the bill as it was written by its sponsor and submitted to the House for consideration.

Owner says Galva explosion isn't linked to OSHA violations

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Galva, Il — Investigators blame a malfunctioning machine for creating a spark that set off multiple dust explosions inside the All-Feed Processing and Packaging plant in Galva early Tuesday. Three employees were treated and released for various injuries from the blasts.

Flour dust may have caused Xcel explosion

La Crosse, Wi — The most likely cause of the fire was a dust explosion in the flail room, where garbage is pulverized, La Crosse Fire Department Division Chief Michael Ethridge said. The fire was mostly out when firefighters arrived.

PITTSFIELD: Fire strikes mill silo again

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Pittsfield, Me — Williams said the fire apparently started with a small dust explosion in the silo, caused by sparks from a furnace filter.

When sugar dust ignites: Victims hope for stronger regulation a year after Ga. refinery blast

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Savannah, Ga — Despite the outcry after the blast, which killed 14 people and injured 40 others, the U.S. still lacks federal regulations requiring industrial plants to prevent the buildup of fine dust particles that can form explosive clouds in confined areas. Federal regulators concluded that the explosion and fire at the refinery in Port Wentworth, just west of Savannah, was caused by a spark that ignited sugar dust like gunpowder.

Six injured in power plant explosion

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Oak Creek, Wi — The explosion in the plant's coal handling facility was reported shortly before 11 a.m. It started a fire in a silo used to collect coal dust. Six contractors were in the area at the time.

Protect workers now

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Savannah Morning News, Opinion — Georgia Sens. Chambliss and Isakson should back regulations to help prevent dust explosions. A NEW year and a new administration bring renewed hope Congress will extend life-saving protections to workers in plants subject to dust explosions.

Spark Detection Systems-Podcast #4

John Astad of Combustible Dust Policy Institute — Spark detection system manufacturers discuss important aspects of spark detection engineering controls in lessening the probability and reducing the severity of combustible dust related fires and explosions at facilities.

When a nuisance becomes deadly

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NFPA Journal — Many people never knew sugar could explode until February 7, 2008, when an explosion rocked the Imperial Sugar Company in Port Wentworth, Georgia, killing 13 people and injuring 40. Located just outside Savannah, this 91-year-old facility processed granulated and powdered sugar.

Western Sugar Plant Fire

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Billings, Mt — ... Tim McLeod, tells us dust was a big factor and crews had to be cautious with how much water they used, to refrain from starting a dust explosion... (This story was about many firefighters are now trained to handle potential combustible dust explosions. One example of this training is not knock open a silo door and turn on a strong stream of water causing a dust cloud to rise and ignite an explosion. They now take caution when approaching such a situation and carefully gain access to the silo and use a fog type spray to wet down the dust and then start extinguishing a smoldering fire deep in the material.)

Combustible Dust Becomes National Target

Combustible dust, a hazard that has historically received little attention from employers and government agencies alike, is a hidden danger that every company operating a saw should address. Sawdust often goes unnoticed in all manners of nooks and crannies although it poses a major hazard if a secondary explosion occurs.

Firefighters Battle Blaze at Marion Stove Business

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Marion, Pa — "It was a dust explosion in one of the hoppers," Marion Fire Chief Jerry Houpt said. After talking with the business owner, Houpt concluded that the mechanical device on the side of the building likely threw a spark. "It created a dust explosion and fire spread everywhere there was dust," Houpt said.

State Warning of Dust Hazards

Portland, Or. — It floats on air, often ignored. Few people appreciate the hazard until it devastates lives and businesses, as it did in a deadly February blast at a Georgia sugar plant. To ensure a disaster of that scale does not happen, Oregon's workplace-safety agency will dispatch a special reminder this month to nearly 2,500 employers statewide about the hazards of dust.

Combustible Dust Measure Expected to Become Law

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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 5522, the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act. According to its sponsors, the measure would force OSHA to issue rules regulating combustible industrial dusts that can build up to hazardous levels and explode.

Danger by the Particle

WAITING for the dust to settle in factories can be deadly. The US House wisely recognized this danger last week and passed legislation to help prevent combustible dust explosions like the one in February that killed 13 workers in a Georgia sugar refinery. Now it's the Senate's turn to clean up this problem.

UPDATE: Bad auger likely started blaze at Bertch

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Waterloo, Ia. — Fire destroyed an 8,000 square foot building on the 600,000 square foot Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing complex Monday evening.

Dust Clouds Settles Over Industries

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Port Wentworth, Ga. — Not long after George Sexton was hired in 1984 at the big sugar refinery on the Savannah River here, he was shown a video warning that the dust thrown off by sugar processing could be "more explosive than dynamite." And for the next 24 years, he says, little more was said about the risk.

Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions

This Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) highlights:

Hazards associated with combustible dusts; • Work practices and guidelines that reduce the potential for a combustible dust explosion, • or that reduce the danger to employees if such an explosion occurs; and, • Training to protect employees from these hazards.

Reduce Your Risk of Dust Fires and Explosions

Tigard (OR), USA — Spark and ember generation is a constant danger in production facilities where combustible materials are being worked, processed, transported, dried, filtered or exhausted. Insurance companies' statistics point out that silos, dust filters, bins, and even complete production lines are the areas of greatest risk.

U.S. Reps. Miller, Barrow Introduce Legislation to Help Prevent Dust Explosions After Georgia Disaster Claims 12 Lives

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Washington, DC — U.S. Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and John Barrow (D-GA) today announced legislation to help prevent combustible dust explosions like the one at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, in early February that killed 12 workers and critically injured 11 others. Miller, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, also announced that he would convene a full committee hearing into the worksite risks of dust explosions on Wednesday, March 12.

Dust Explosion at West Pharmaceutical Services

Kinston, North Carolina — On January 29, 2003, a powerful explosion and fire ripped through the West Pharmaceutical Services rubber-manufacturing plant in Kinston, North Carolina, taking the lives of six employees, and injuring 38 others including two firefighters who responded to the accident. The blast occurred without warning at 1:28 p.m. during a routine workday and could be heard 25 miles from the plant. A student at a school more than half a mile away was injured by shattered glass. Flaming debris set woods on fire as far as two miles away

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