According to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, there were 281 combustible dust explosions in workplaces around the country between 1980 and 2005. These accidents killed 119 workers and injured 718. In order to reduce the number of such incidents in Oklahoma and across the United States, the National Fire Protection Association has released a new Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also focusing on ways to reduce combustible dust incidents for general industry.
Despite the safety standards in place, many employers and employees fail to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others. Experts say that the risk of dust explosions is consistently overlooked in the workplace. Part of the problem is that dust can remain dormant for years until the right conditions finally come together to cause an explosive incident. This can cause complacency among workers.
To reduce the risk of combustible dust explosions, each type of dust must be tested by a reputable laboratory. Work areas must also be consistently cleaned to reduce dust collection. Employers and employees should also become familiar with the conditions that lead to dust reactivity and strictly follow all safety procedures. Meanwhile, explosion prevention equipment has to be carefully maintained and monitored. The tiniest malfunction can cause a catastrophic event. Finally, when an accident occurs, it must be vigorously investigated to identify and correct the mistakes that led to the event.
Despite these types of safety precautions being taken, workplace accidents will continue to happen. Employees who are injured may be eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, which can include the furnishing of necessary care and treatment. It may be helpful to consult with an attorney when preparing a claim to ensure all necessary documentation is included.