Combustible dust is a notorious hazard in a number of industries. According to OSHA, a combustible material can burn rapidly when in a fine partical form. Dust suspended in the air at the right concentration under certain conditions can become explosive. Some materials, including aluminum or iron, under certain conditions can become flammable or highly explosive when in the form of dust.
Employers and industry leaders, as well as government agencies, including OSHA, are responsible for regulating work conditions and ensuring that combustible dust is properly eliminated. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are experienced with complex cases involving work accidents and injuries. We are aware of the very dangerous nature of highly combustible dust and urge employers to take appropriate action to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities.
The force of an explosion from combustible dust has been known to cause significant employee injuries and deaths. In some cases, a combustible dust explosion can demolish an entire building. The U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board has identified 281 combustible dust explosions between 1980 and 2005. These accidents lead to the deaths of 119 workers nationwide. The explosions also resulted in over 700 injuries and the damage to countless industrial facilities.
Materials that can be combustible in dust exist in a range of industries including food, tobacco, plastic, wood and paper, furniture and textiles. Combustible dust also exists in textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and metal industries. Workers in these and other industries should be aware of the risk and follow appropriate safety protocols to prevent injury. In the event of an explosion or injury, workers and their loved ones have the right to pursue workers' compensation benefits.
This week, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will hold a public meeting in Washington D.C. The board may designate an OSHA combustible dust standard as its first "Most Wanted Chemical Safety Improvement," due to the very dangerous nature of the material. Leadership in OSHA is the audience for the meeting and the board is slated to consider whether the three previous recommendations are not acceptable. After several investigations the board has not found that OSHA adequately implemented safety management.
The meeting will focus on three main recommendations. The first is in response to an investigation in a Delaware refinery which found that the storage tanks could be involved with the potential release in a covered process with 10,000 pounds of a flammable substance. The second recommendation involves a Texas refinery which should require additional oversight of organizational changes that could impact process safety. A third recommendation calls on OSHA to issue a fuel gas safety standard for construction and general industry.
The meeting and review of standards in the treatment of combustible dust is intended to broaden OSHA oversight and create enforceable safety standards to protect the well-being of workers. We are committed to raising awareness about the dangers of combustible dust and urge North and South Carolina employees and workers to stay abreast of all safety measures in all impacted industries.