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Employers need a comprehensive strategy to manage dangerous combustible dust, which can cause catastrophic injuries and death and is present in an array of industries, according to a white paper released Thursday by Global Risk Consultants Corp.
The Clark, New Jersey-based firm points to 169 combustible dust incidents in 2017, injuring 163 workers and killing 13, as the cause for alarm.
Combustible dust is described as “finely divided solids that present flash fire and combustion hazards under certain conditions” and that such hazardous materials come in many forms including flours, grains, hops, sugars, charcoal, lactose, aluminum, wood dusts, rubbers and other materials.
The white paper also highlights the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s new Call to Action, focused on combustible dust hazards and the continued need for awareness, protection and prevention of tragedies detailed in the white paper. Such events included explosions at the Imperial Sugar Factory in Port Wentworth, Georgia, in 2008, which resulted in 14 fatalities, and the Didion Milling facility explosion in Cambria, Wisconsin, in 2017, which killed five workers.
“While compliance with standards is a must, the need for multilayered solutions is paramount in avoiding these incidents,” the paper states. “Implementing a sound housekeeping program,” which includes minimizing the escape of dust with proper equipment and ventilation systems, was named as one solution, followed by “installing engineered solutions and promoting awareness are all components of a comprehensive safety program.”
Consultants also point to “Dust Hazard Analyses” as “extremely advantageous” in identifying and mitigating the hazards. Such an analysis is “designed to identify and assess hazards associated with potentially combustible materials and environments, to evaluate failure modes and develop security and mitigation efforts to prevent combustible dust-related incidents,” the paper states.
“No one factor will prevent combustible dust explosions; a comprehensive approach to safety, prevention and protection is required,” the paper states.