The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has warned about the dangers of combustible dust before, and its new report on a series of disasters at the Hoeganaes facility in Gallatin, Tennessee once again highlights how deadly this hazard can be. In three separate incidents at the Hoeganaes powdered metals plant, fires killed a total of five workers and injured three more. Here’s a summary of the CSB’s findings:
The CSB investigation found that significant amounts of fine iron powder had accumulated over time at the Hoeganaes facility, and that while the company knew from its own testing and experience with flash fires in the plant that the dust was combustible, it did not take the necessary action to reduce the hazards through engineering controls and basic housekeeping. The investigation also found that Hoeganaes did not institute procedures such as combustible gas monitoring or provide training for employees on avoiding flammable gas fires and explosions.
The Board issued several safety recommendations, including that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), develop and publish a proposed combustible dust standard within one year and ensure that the new standard includes coverage for combustible iron and steel powders.
The CSB first made an official recommendation to OSHA about a combustible dust standard in 2006. In 2007, OSHA started a National Emphasis Program to do more inspections and enforcement in industries with combustible dust hazards. In 2009, it announced it would begin the rulemaking process on a combustible dust standard for general industry. When the disasters occurred at the Hoeganaes plant, OSHA had not yet proposed this standard.
To see more about how combustible dust turned into deadly fires at the Hoeganaes plant, watch the CSB’s “Iron in the Fire” video.
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Washington Post: Metrobus drivers report that the demands of their job make it hard to take adequate bathroom breaks.
New York Times: When thieves target drugstores in search of pain drugs, pharmacists fear for their safety.
CIDRAP: CDC calls for a voluntary, nonpunitive surveillance system for laboratory-acquired infections.