Dust production is inevitable in manufacturing plants and warehouses. When proper cleaning and dust removal procedures are in place, this is usually not a cause for concern.
Unfortunately, not all employers make dust removal a priority. As a result, HVAC systems and vents can be clogged and dust can be dispersed onto floors, machinery, and other vital areas.
Real examples of explosions caused by dust
EHS Today cites a 2009 incident in Thomaston, Maine that was caused after workers dismantled an empty cement storage tank and swept cement dust, wood, and fiberglass foam into a pile. The storage tank first becomes filled with smoke, followed by an explosion that could be “heard 11 miles away.”
In another incident at the West Pharmaceutical plant in North Carolina – which manufactured items from synthetic rubber – dust was cleaned from machinery. Some dust was lifted above the suspended ceilings by ventilation and a small disturbance above a light fixture set off a chain of explosions that killed six people.
While the explosions in both of these incidents had different causes, they had one thing in common: lack of proper industrial fume extraction systems or dust collection systems. Simply having ventilation systems in place isn’t enough to prevent an explosion.
What causes dust fires and explosions?
Dust can be stirred up during cleaning procedures. Much of that dust can build up and collect in ceilings, ventilation, and other hard-to-clean areas. Fires and explosions can occur when this dust is disturbed.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are five elements that can cause dust to combust.
The first three elements can cause dust to catch fire:
- Combustible dust which acts as fuel
- Extreme heat which can cause ignition
- Oxygen in the air
The following two elements can cause explosions when added to the first three:
- Dust being dispersed in high quantities and concentration
- Confinement of a dust cloud
If one of these five elements isn't part of the equation, explosions aren’t possible.
Health and injury risks to workers
Manufacturing plants and warehouses that are affected by copious amounts of dust should not only consider the costs associated with worker injuries, but also the overall safety of workers. In addition, materials used to manufacture synthetic products put workers at risk of developing certain cancers, lung disease, and a slew of other work-related illnesses.
Workers can be harmed by small amounts of fumes or toxic dust, even if health complications take years to develop.
If you have been injured or developed an illness on the job, you may be eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits. To ensure that the process is done correctly, you should discuss your matter with an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Law Offices Of Richard A. Jaffe, LLC.
Schedule your free consultation. Contact us online today.