Metal processing workers in Pennsylvania are often exposed to work environments that contain dust. If this type of dust is not removed from an area regularly, there is a potential that the dust materials could suddenly explode under certain conditions. Extremely fine dust particles that are suspended in the air pose the greatest combustible dust hazard.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board conducted a study on combustible dust and fatalities caused by combustible dust. From 1980 to 2005, there were 119 workers killed in combustible dust accidents. During the same time period, 718 workers sustained injuries in such incidents. The risks of combustible dust have caught the attention of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the federal agency has developed general rules about the topic.
Though combustible dust explosions are still somewhat of a mystery, employers can mitigate the risks of a dust explosion with regular dust collection. The hazards associated with certain types of dust can be hard to gauge, but dust can be tested for explosibility. Employers should make sure to have their specific dust tested rather than relying on general information about dust made from the materials that they work with. If there is an explosive event, the incident should be thoroughly investigated so that corrective actions can be taken to prevent another explosion.
A person who has sustained injuries in a workplace combustible dust accident may be eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. If the accident involved a facility or materials that were owned by a non-employer third party, a separate personal injury lawsuit can in some cases be pursued. An attorney can often provide assistance to an injured worker with these types of matters.