Dust Explosion Risk Addressed

Dust Explosions Targeted by House Bill

Grain dust, sugar dust, flower, and other type of dust are commonplace in many workplaces.  A lot of people look at a dusty workplace and see hard work, not a deadly workplace hazard which can take down the building they’re working in with just one explosion. In response to a marked increase in the number of fires and explosions in workplaces in recent years, resulting in hundreds of workers injured or dead, the House of Representatives is considering a bill that would protect workers from the dangers posed by combustible dust.

Combustible dusts can be made up of organic or metal particles that are finely ground. Accumulations of dust are potentially very dangerous, if they are allowed to build up inside equipment or even on surfaces within the general work area.  Some of the most common particles associated with industrial dust explosions include:

  • Coal;
  • Sawdust;
  • Magnesium;
  • Grain;
  • Flour;
  • Sugar;
  • Powdered Milk;
  • Pollen;
  • Aluminum; and
  • Titanium.

Depending on the materials, these particles can be extremely explosive when they are dispersed into the air near common ignition sources such as furnaces, welding equipment, or even electrical outlets.  However, these dust particles can also explode by these common sources of ignition:

  • Electrostatic Discharge;
  • Friction
  • Arcing from machinery or other equipment;
  • Hot surfaces, including e.g. overheated bearings; and
  • Fire

Explosions resulting from chemical dust ignitions can be catastrophic and have been known to take down entire buildings, as well as cause numerous injuries and deaths to workers. Unfortunately, despite numerous warnings, many folks tend not to take dust accumulation very seriously, it is not unusual for workers and supervisors to have no idea that a hazard existed.

The bill was introduced because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been stalled since 2009 in trying to issue a rule. If the bill passes, it would force OSHA to issue an interim rule within a year, a proposed rule within 18 months, and a finalized rule within three years. OSHA would be required to base as much of its interim standard as possible on decades-old guidelines developed by the National Fire Protection Association. While these guidelines are already in place in many areas, they’re often optional and rarely enforced. By including them in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, they would become mandatory. Employers would also be required to provide more worker training, and to conduct more cleaning and inspections, in order to prevent dust buildup. It would also require better equipment design to minimize releases of dust in the first place.

The Texas Worksite Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm has represented many people who have been exposed to the effects of buildups of dust in the workplace. If you or your loved one has suffered an injury or has died as a result of a combustible dust explosion while on the job, call the Texas Industrial Dust Explosion Injury Attorney at Hill Law Firm for a free consultation.


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