Metal processing workers in Minnesota should be aware of the potential for workplace explosions from combustible dust. In certain conditions, the materials that compose the dust in a metal processing plant could energetically react, causing fires and dust explosions. Combustible dust can be extremely unpredictable since dust can sit dormant for years before it explodes.
The National Fire Protection Association recently issued a new safety standard called ‘Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust.” There was also a study on combustible dust accidents conducted by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. According to the CSB, there were 281 combustible dust accidents identified between 1980 and 2005. These accidents injured 718 workers and resulted in the deaths of another 119.
Many employers underestimate the risk of combustible dust in the workplace because they haven’t experienced any dust explosions. Because dust can be so unpredictable, the lack of explosive events in a particular area is not an indication that the dust in that area is safe. All dust is different and should be tested for explosibility. To lower the chances of a combustible dust accident, dust should be frequently and thoroughly collected from all work areas.
A combustible dust accident could happen unexpectedly, leaving a worker injured and unable to return to the job. People who are in this situation may be able to claim financial reimbursement for their workplace accident injuries by filing a workers’ compensation claim with their employer’s insurance provider. Many injured workers obtain the assistance of an attorney throughout the process. An attorney can also provide representation at appeals hearings in the event the claim is disputed or denied.