Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust

We’ve talked and reported on OSHAs’ slow response to the combustible dust issue on this blog several times.
We’ve posted quite a few posts on the issue of combustible dust as well. (

We’d like to report that OSHA has finally started the ball rolling and will soon have a standard available but we can’t because they aren’t. What they have done, however, is to upload a new booklet onto their wesite entitled “Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust

The 30 page booklet explains why combustible dust is such a danger and how these facilities need special considerations and precautions, both before the fire, in order to prevent and well as once the fire has been started. It gives case studies of injuries and fatalities explaining how they could have been avoided.

Combustible Dust

One of the top safety issues this past year has been the issue of combustible dust. We’ve talked about it often in this blog including the explosion at Imperial Sugar as well as the CSB criticism of OSHA’s slow response to getting a standard in place (For a complete list of all the combustible dust articles covered on this blog go here).

So, having comes across a website that has a good series of articles on combustible dust as well as a white paper that you can request, I wanted to give you the link so that you could explore this issue better for yourself if it is relevant to you and your place of work.

The articles are a part of the Nilfisk website, a company that sells explosion proof vacuums (National Safety, Inc. is not affiliated with Nilfisk in any way and we are not a distributor for their products).

Besides the white paper entitled “Reduce the Risk: Understanding and Resolving Combustible Dust Issues” which you can request after giving them your information, there is also a Combustible Dust FAQs section that you will find informative.

Define combustible Dust (including the “Dust Explosion Pentagon”)
Is your company at risk?

An understanding of secondary explosions

and more…

This site isn’t the end all on the question of combustible dust but it’ll at least give you a firm grasp of the risk as well as some possible solutions.

CSB Chides OSHA on Combustible Dust Standard

The U. S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is apparently tired of OSHA dragging its feet on the combustible dust standard it promised to address as early as 2003 and has yet to act on.

In two separate statements, both of which can be found on the CSB website. Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso speaks out about OSHA’s failure to address the issue despite promises to do so.

Rafael Moure-Eraso is chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

The first statement dated on February 6th, addresses the lack of a standard that might have, had OSHA acted as it had said it would, have prevented the explosion at Imperial Sugar Refinery that that killed 14 workers and injured 38 others. This particular statement was issued on the four year anniversary of the explosion and chastises OSHA for failing to have followed through with a standard that they had promised was forthcoming as early as 2003.

The second statement dated February 19th, refers back to the 2003 dust explosions at the CTA Acoustics plant in Corbin that killed seven employees. Rafael Moure-Eraso claims that the findings related to that explosion resulted in a promise from OSHA to address the issue and draft a standard. It further builds on the accusation by relating other dust explosions that might have been prevented had a standard been in place. Each time, the CSB made recommendations to OSHA to draft a standard.

Apparently Rafael Moure-Eraso has had enough of OSHAs’ dragging its feet and is going public with his criticism of OSHA on this matter.

Part of his complaint has to do with the fact, not only that OSHA hasn’t yet drafted a standard but that apparently OSHA hasn’t even outlined a timeline, milestones or targets to get it done.

I, for one, am certainly interested in hearing what OSHAs response might be as to why it apparently hasn’t pulled out a manila folder and written “Dust Standard” on it. However overworked and understaffed they might be, this seems to be something that can’t sit on the back burner any longer. Without a standard to enforce, too many irresponsible companies out there will just continue to do business as usual and sit like a ticking timebomb.

Dust was an issue at third Hoeganaes Accident

According to a quick update that I posted last week about the Hoeganaes explosion, mention was made of a hydrogen leak being the cause of the problem. According to the CSB investigation, however, the hydrogen leak caused an explosion but the explosion ignited the combustible iron dust that has been at the core of the controversy surrounding this third accident.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board states that clean up alone is not enough to avoid future explosions. The whole manufacturing process has to be redesigned and reengineered to keep the dust from just accumulating all over again.

The CSB has no power to close the plant or to impose sanctions; its role is limited to giving recommendations.

Should Hoeganaes ignore these recommendations, however, one can only guess about the possible repercussions. It is bad enough that 4 people have already died because of combustible dust without risking further lives.

To complicate matters, combustible dust rulings still hang in the balance with OSHA as well as on local levels (TOSHA in this case). Until OSHA puts it down on paper I’m afraid, many companies will not comply with simple recommendations.

You can view the full CSB News Conference Press Release here.