Combustible dust is a common hazard in some South Carolina workplaces, and combustible material burns quickly when divided finely. Even materials that do not usually burn can become explosive if the conditions are right, and OSHA says that these explosions can kill workers and destroy entire facilities. According to data from the federal safety agency, 281 workplace accidents between 1980 and 2005 involved combustible dust. These accidents claimed the lives of 119 workers and left 718 others injured.
Industries such as metal working, agriculture and pharmaceutical production must remain vigilant as dust can lay dormant for years before causing an explosion or fire. The National Fire Protection Association published a combustible dust standard in 2015 to provide guidance to site managers and safety professionals who await rules from OSHA.
Dust is at its most dangerous when suspended in the air, and small environmental disturbances caused by changes in manufacturing processes can trigger catastrophic events. Constant testing of atmospheric conditions and close scrutiny of records after a near miss are recommended. Employers can also reduce the likelihood of combustible dust-related workplace injuries by maintaining ventilation equipment and keeping workplaces free of dust.
Those who are in hazardous occupations understand that no amount of training and preparation can prevent all accidents, and suffering a work-related injury is a possibility that they are constantly aware of. The South Carolina workers’ compensation program provides financial assistance to eligible employees who have a work-related illness or injury, but the application process and the medical evidence required can be confusing. An attorney with experience in this area could assist injured workers with their claims to ensure that they apply for all of the benefits to which they may be entitled.
Source: OSHA, Combustible Dust: An Explosion Hazard, accessed on Oct. 23, 2015