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Industrial accidents: What causes combustible dust explosions?

Allowing the accumulation of combustible dust in manufacturing facilities can lead to deadly explosions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed over $90,000 in penalties for an Illinois pallet maker some months ago for exposing employees to the dangers of potential industrial accidents. Advisers at the safety agency say there are five elements required for the dust to become combustible.

Fires typically need fuel, heat and an oxidizer, and for a dust explosion, these are made up of dust, heat and oxygen. If the dust particles are dispersed in sufficient concentration and quantity and it forms a confined dust cloud, a deadly explosion can follow. Other influential factors include the dust particle size, ambient humidity, the moisture content of the dust, and the oxygen level in the air.

OSHA warns that dust accumulation must be prevented in plants that are particularly at risk. These include industries that work with wood, pulp, paper, furniture, rubber and tire manufacturing. Also at risk are facilities where fertilizer, grain, tobacco or plastics are processed, along with coal and fossil fuel power generation and metal processing like zinc, iron, chromium, magnesium and aluminum. Dangers are also present in agriculture, recycling, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, textiles and food manufacturing.

The extensive list of danger zones underscores the importance of complying with safety rules related to combustible dust accumulation. Victims of industrial accidents such as explosions could suffer catastrophic injuries that might leave them disabled. An experienced Illinois workers' compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of workers' compensation benefits claims to obtain maximum coverage of medical expenses and lost income. If applicable, vocational training might be an added benefit.

Source:, "OSHA Cites Illinois Company for Combustible Dust Hazards and Other Violations", March 20, 2018

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