Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers discuss the risk of combustible dust explosions in the workplace. According to the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB), combustible dust fires and explosions continue to harm workers in many industries, including those in food processing, fuel storage, waste treatment, oil production, and paper manufacturing. Back in 2006, the CSB made its first recommendations after researchers found that combustible dust fires posed a serious threat of death and injury. The Board made recommendations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at that time. Now, years later, the CSB is reiterating those recommendations claiming that combustible dust poses a critical threat to industrial safety.

The CSB has again called upon OSHA to enact a comprehensive industry standard for combustible dust. The CSB’s 2006 study was prompted by a series of tragic fires and explosions that critically or fatally injured many hardworking Americans. Specifically, CSB found that between 1980 and 2005, 281 combustible dust explosions and fires killed 119 workers and injured well over 700 more. Since 2006, CSB has investigated five more combustible dust incidents. These tragic and preventable situations caused 27 workers to lose their lives and injured more than 61 others.

In the wake of its study, CSB found that most companies completely ignore the threat posed by combustible dust, even though good engineering and safety practice could easily mitigate the risk posed to workers. It made recommendations to OSHA to promulgate standards that would bridge the existing gap in federal rules, specifically identifying the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for dust explosions as a starting point.

What Is Combustible Dust?

When dust is confined in a closed space, it can accumulate on surfaces and remain there undisturbed for years. When something called a primary event—a fire or explosion in the plant—shakes loose some of this settled dust, it can result in secondary explosions. These tend to be extremely dangerous and often result in an even greater number of casualties than the initial catalyst fire or explosion. Dust can accumulate on rafters, beams, and industrial equipment, and be dislodged from the pressure waves following the initial explosion. According to the NFPA, as little as 1/32 of an inch of dust accumulated on surfaces (about the thickness of a dime) can result in a combustible dust secondary explosion.

The NFPA standards CSB is calling on OSHA to adopt are tried and tested. They address important safety issues, including:

  • Dust hazard analysis
  • Engineering controls
  • Housekeeping
  • Building design
  • Explosion protection
  • Operating procedures
  • Worker training

Workers who have been injured in a fire or explosion that was caused or made worse by combustible dust may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. The family of workers who have died in an accident of this type may recover death benefits to help supplement the loss of the deceased worker’s income and other expenses. If the accident was caused by the negligent or reckless actions of someone other than the worker’s employer, the victims may have a valid third-party liability claim that allows for additional recovery of damages.

Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Fight for Workers Who Are Burned or Injured in Explosions

If you have been injured in a workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation that can help your family, including lost wages, medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, disability and disfigurement benefits, and more. To discuss your case and schedule a free, no obligation consultation, call the experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. today at 803-929-3600 or contact us online.

With six office locations throughout South Carolina, we represent 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 state.