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Understanding workplace combustible dust

Dust may seem harmless. However, some types of workplace dust can be dangerous and even deadly, especially if it accumulates inside a manufacturing facility. Because of these potential dangers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has offered tips to help employers in Minnesota and across the country avoid dust-related workplace hazards.

Workplace dust that accumulates and disperses into the air can suddenly explode or cause a flash fire and trigger multiple explosions. For example, one employee died and five others were injured on Feb. 7 when a large amount of grain dust at a hammer mill in Georgia exploded. The company, JCG Farms Feed Mill, was fined $100,000 by OSHA following an investigation into the incident. Another similar incident occurred in Georgia in 2008 when a deadly explosion of finely divided sugar dust at a refinery fatally injured 14 employees.

Besides the danger of a dust explosion, there are respiratory dangers associated with different types of harmful dusts. Those who work in industries where they are continually exposed to dust-producing materials could develop respiratory troubles or lung disease.

Potentially explosive dust could come from spices, cellulose, charcoal, aluminum, iron, plastics, dyes and pharmaceuticals. Employers should be aware of these potentially explosive fuel dusts and practice good housekeeping to reduce the dangers. Dust collection systems can also be used to remove dust before it accumulates. Work areas should also have proper explosion-relief venting.

Workers' compensation provides indemnity for lost wages and medical costs in the event an employee suffers an on-the-job injury. An injured employee might benefit from speaking with a local attorney who could explain their rights and ensure that they receive the full amount of benefits they deserve.

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Law Office of David M. Bialke
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