According to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, incidents involving combustible dust led to 119 worker deaths and 718 worker injuries between 1980 and 2005. Although an explosion or fire caused by combustible dust poses a real risk to workers, few people actually have the knowledge and experience to put safety measures into place. Employers may not understand the danger that exists because dust can lay dormant for years without incident.
However, a small change to a manufacturing process can cause this previously dormant material to ignite without warning. Therefore, companies may benefit from performing a comprehensive analysis of each type of dust that may be present to determine the risk of a future explosion. Companies should also have a policy in place to collect dust on a regular basis to prevent it from collecting in any one area.
Employees should be on the lookout for conditions that could be favorable for an explosion. In the event that an explosion almost occurs or a minor event takes place, employers should perform a review of the incident and determine what may have caused it. Afterward, corrective actions should be taken to guard against such an event taking place in the future.
Despite safety precautions, the hazardous nature of many occupations means that workplace accidents will continue to happen. Most employers are required to have workers' compensation insurance in place for this reason. An eligible employee who is injured in such an accident may want to have the assistance of an attorney in filing a claim for benefits that can include the provision of medical care as well as a percentage of wages lost during the recovery period.