CHARLESTON, WV – The combustible dust explosion that claimed three lives at AL Metal in 2010 underscores the need for a national combustible dust standard, according to Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB).
Moure-Eraso used the release of CSB’s investigative report of the fatal AL Metal accident as a public forum, imploring the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate a general industry combustible dust standard as mandated by a congressional vote in 2009.
The CSB has investigated nine fatal combustible dust explosions and fires since 2003 that have claimed a total of 36 lives and injured 128 more. None of those investigations have involved wood products manufacturing plants, though CSB could find a candidate in the April 25 explosion of a Gerogia-Pacific plywood plant in Corrigan, TX, that killed two workers and injured five more.
“Preventable combustible dust explosions continue to occur, causing worker deaths and injuries.” Moure-Eraso said. “The CSB believes it is imperative for OSHA to issue a comprehensive combustible dust standard for general industry with clear control requirements to prevent dust fires and explosions.”
CSB Investigator Mark Wingard said the probe of AL Solutions revealed that the facility had experienced fatal fires and explosions involving metal dust in 1995 and 2006, plus seven other fires between 1993 and the 2010 explosion in which crews from the local fire department were dispatched. CSB said that in spite this long history of combustible dust accidents, AL Solutions failed to implement proper engineering and housekeeping controls to safeguard workers.
In addition to the final report, CSB released a video featuring a 3D computer-generated animation of what investigators believe triggered the Dec. 9 explosion at AL Solution’s facility in Cumberland, WV. Three employees were killed and a contractor injured at the facility that milled and processed scrap titanium and zirconium metal into compacts. The video, “Combustible Dust: Solutions Delayed,” includes a 3D computer-generated animation of how the accident unfolded at the plant.
CSB has pushed for a combustible dust rule since 2006 when it released its Combustible Dust Hazard Study. Based on the study, CSB recommended that OSHA issue a combustible dust standard for general industry based on the current NFPA guidelines. Last July, CSB renewed its call for OSHA to take action in naming combustible dust the top priority of its first “Most Wanted Chemical Safety Improvement” outreach program.
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“Had a national standard for combustible dust been in place in 2006 – and if industry had followed the requirements – many of the severe dust incidents that followed, including AL Solutions, may have been prevented,” Moure-Eraso says in the AL Solutions video. “The time is now for OSHA to take action to prevent these tragic accidents.”
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