Combustible dust can present a dangerous risk for explosion on a variety of work sites including chemical factories, sugar refineries, manufacturing warehouses, construction sites, and mining operations. While safety experts continue to identify combustible dust as a problem in the workplace, there has been little success in developing safety protocols to prevent combustible dust hazards. The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has recently issued a new call to action to address the issue on a more wide scale basis.
Dangers of Combustible Dust
From 1980 to 2017, over 1000 workers were injured as a direct result of combustible dust incidents. There have been 178 reported deaths attributed to fires or explosions caused by combustible dust. Some of the most common physical injuries that workers suffer from explosions include broken bones, collapsed lungs, ruptured eardrums, abdominal hemorrhaging, chemical burns, eye injuries, and traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
Despite the real danger associated with the buildup of combustible dust, many workers have little awareness of the potential for explosions associated with combustible dust. While workers could identify the dust as flammable, its explosive nature is often unrecognized. Many workers have narrow perceptions of the true risk of combustible dust.
Perceptions about the true risk of dust hazards can be influenced by the number of factors. When there have been previous fires at the worksite, workers may develop a false sense of security that an explosion is unlikely to take place. At companies where sanitation is a focal point, workers may not realize that dust can accumulate despite the most vigilant cleaning efforts. When a facility frequently recycles or reprocesses materials, spills and leaks of combustible dust often go unnoticed.
Since many workers have difficulty assessing true dust levels at worksites, dangerous levels of combustible dust can accumulate without any warning. At this time, there is no general industry standard related to combustible dust control and management. The CSB’s call to action is the first step in developing an industry-wide standard.
Call to Action
Following the tragic explosion and five deaths at the Didion Mining Company facility in Wisconsin last year, the CSB drafted a Call to Action seeking input about combustible dust risks from construction companies, industry insiders, safety experts, worker advocacy groups, and inspectors from both state and federal agencies.
Among the issues the Call to Action seeks to clarify are:
- How to recognize and measure “unsafe” dust levels at worksites
- Best ways to identify combustible dust hazards and communicate them to workers
- Barriers to implementing industry standards or guidance related to dust management
- How to perform important mechanical maintenance tasks without increasing dust levels
- Methods of minimizing the release of dust at worksites
- Communication protocols for workers and supervisors who witness the accumulation of combustible dust at worksites
The CSB hopes the Call to Action will lead to greater insight into why catastrophic combustible dust explosions such as the Didion Mining incident continue to occur around the country. As more information is gathered on how to best manage and control combustible dust hazards, the CSB hopes the number of combustible dust explosions will be greatly reduced.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Help Workers Injured in Combustible Dust Explosions
At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. our experienced attorneys assist individuals who have suffered workplace injuries through South Carolina. To speak with a Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyer today, call us at 803-929-3600 or 866-881-8623 or submit an online inquiry form.
From our six offices in South Carolina, we represent injured workers in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the areas of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.