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Preventing combustible dust explosions

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a fact sheet to help reduce combustible dust explosions at manufacturing plants in Oklahoma and nationwide. These explosions have the potential to occur at any plant that contains dust particles, including dust particles that aren't normally considered flammable.

According to OSHA, the risk of explosions increases when fine dust particles become airborne. Coal, charcoal, metals, dyes, cellulose, spices, bar soap and even sugar have all been known to explode under the right conditions. For example, an accumulation of finely divided sugar exploded at a Georgia sugar plant in 2008, killing 14 people. In another case, one worker was killed and five others were injured when grain dust exploded at a farm feed mill in Georgia.

In order to prevent combustible dust explosions, OSHA recommends that employers assess the explosive potential of dusts in their plant. The agency also urges employers to control fuel dust by capturing particles with approved dust collection systems and containing dust within equipment or rooms that are designed to safely house combustible dust. All containment areas should have explosion-relief venting distributed over an exterior wall. Work areas, concealed spaces and overhead surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. All electrical cleaning devices should be approved for Class II hazardous locations.

Workplace safety should be a top priority for all employers. Oklahoma employees who suffer an on-the-job accident due to unsafe working conditions may want to meet with an attorney in order to learn about their legal options other than filing a claim for workers' compensation benefits under their employer's insurance coverage.

Source: Safety BLR, "Combustible dust: New OSHA fact sheet offers preventive advice," Sept. 29, 2016

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