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Hazards of combustible dust

Louisiana workers in manufacturing facilities and certain other types of work spaces might not realize that dust can pose a risk of explosion. On Feb. 27, 2016, a man was killed and five other people were hospitalized after a dust explosion at a feed mill in Georgia. When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated, it found a number of violations, and the agency has put out a fact sheet dealing with this hazard.

Dust is flammable when it is disturbed from its resting position and dispersed throughout the air. Substances that are not themselves explosive, such as sugar and soap, can produce explosive dust. Other products that can form potentially explosive dusts include some dyes and pharmaceuticals, some plastics, charcoal, coal, some agricultural products including spices and egg whites, and some metals such as iron and magnesium. OSHA has provided a more extensive list of products online. Workers may be unaware that they are handling potentially explosive materials.

OSHA also has a number of recommendations in place intended to protect workers from dust. The agency suggests the use of dust collection systems, keeping dust contained in equipment or areas that can handle combustible dust, and keeping work areas where combustible dust is likely to accumulate clean.

People who are injured in the workplace may be eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Employees might not realize they are eligible, and their employers might not inform them that they are. Some employers may discourage employees from filing for workers' compensation or try to intimidate them from doing so. Employers might try to retaliate by demoting or even firing the worker, but these actions are illegal.

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