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The Underrated Hazard of Combustible Dust

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | January 31, 2013 | Comments Off on The Underrated Hazard of Combustible Dust

The Underrated Hazard of Combustible Dust

It’s hard to imagine that dust can explode, but unfortunately, combustible dust does—and with catastrophic consequences. In fact, from 1980 to 2005 alone, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) recorded 119 worker fatalities, 718 worker injuries, and substantial damage to many industrial facilities due to combustible dust.

Combustible dust explosions are completely dependent on the type of dust and present circumstances. Let’s review how they happen, and the steps taken to prevent the.

How Does a Dust Explosion Occur?

There are five main ingredients to a combustible dust explosion.

  1. Combustible dust (this can include typically harmless materials such as flour and sugar)
  2. Dispersion or suspension at a high concentration
  3. Oxidant (typically, oxygen, but can also be other gases)
  4. A confined space
  5. Ignition source (usually a naked flame or electrical discharge, but can also be a hot surface, such as an overheated bearing)

When all five are present, the suspended dust cloud will rapidly combust and cause an explosion that can lead to catastrophic injuries and fatalities.

OSHA’s Involvement

Many people are unaware of the imminent danger of combustible dust, so the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is especially vigilant about infractions of guidelines concerning combustible dust accumulation.

Of course, OSHA cannot be everywhere at once, so it’s important that all relevant parties and stakeholders educate themselves on the dangers of combustible dust. OSHA refers interested parties and stakeholders who want to know more about combustible dust to their related webpage.

The Case of Carmen Creative Cabinets

Recently, OSHA found Carmen Creative Cabinets LLC in violation of several safety and health provisions, including those involving hazards associated with combustible dust buildup. Following an inspection of the company’s manufacturing facility in Belton, Texas, OSHA has recommended penalties totaling $64,800.

Carmen Creative Cabinets was given 15 business days to contest the findings, to ask for a conference with the OSHA area office, or to accept the findings and comply with the proposed penalties. An independent OSHA review commission will be convened in case the company decides to contest the findings.

OSHA reported that Carmen Creative Cabinets did not:

  • Train and certify its forklift operators
  • Install approved electrical equipment
  • Put in place the correct conduit for compressed air
  • Carry out what’s called a “hazard communication program and training” on proper handling and use of different chemicals
  • Implement safety measures for nail guns
  • Provide unobstructed access to circuit breaker boxes and fire extinguishers
  • Included in the health violations reported by OSHA were the company’s failures to: supply its workforce with the mandatory personal protective equipment, keep its restroom facilities clean, and have available to its employees’ first aid supplies.

Carmen Creative Cabinets is just one example of a company that OSHA has found in violation of combustible dust hazards. Ensure your company is not hit with the same fines and is protected from the dangers of combustible dust by educating all personnel on combustible dust best practices.

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