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What is a dust fire or explosion?

Dust and other small particulates are combustible and can cause explosions or fires in industrial settings. If you're working with your attorney on a claim following injuries you've suffered because of a workplace explosion, then this may be a cause to investigate. There are some laws in place that regulate the workplace, so these accidents shouldn't take place, but they have for many decades regardless of those rules.

There have been several serious explosions over the course of many decades; in 2003, for instance, a dust explosion took place in Kentucky in an acoustics insulation plant. There, the cause of the explosion was describes as being an unattended oven that ignited a dust cloud. In the 1970s, grain dust explosions took place several times and left 59 people dead with another 49 people injured.

Dust fires are caused when fuel present in the form of dust is heated, and there is oxygen present. These three elements are needed for a fire to start. If the explosion is going to take place, it would be because the dust cloud has been confined or because there are enough particles in a concentrated location to do so.

When an explosion or fire takes place, there are several hazards to employees. The fire burns rapidly, causing a risk for serious burns. Flying debris is likely in the event of an explosion, and the building itself could collapse from the explosion or fire eating through structural components. After an initial explosion, there may be a secondary explosion as well, so employees should be removed from the building as quickly as possible to avoid injury.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions," accessed Oct. 07, 2015

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