Combustible dust Federal agencies Manufacturing

CSB to stakeholders: Tell us why efforts to control combustible dust aren’t working

Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington — The Chemical Safety Board is seeking to better understand why efforts to manage and control combustible dust hazards “have often failed” to prevent explosions.

As part of the agency’s investigation into a May 2017 explosion and fire that killed five workers and injured 14 others at the Didion Milling Co. facility in Cambria, WI, CSB issued Call to Action: Combustible Dust, which includes a series of questions for companies, regulators, inspectors, safety training providers, researchers, unions and workers, among others.


“The agency seeks input on a variety of complex issues, including recognizing and measuring ‘unsafe’ levels of dust in the workplace, managing responsibilities and expectations that sometimes are at odds with each other (e.g., performing mechanical integrity preventative maintenance while simultaneously striving to minimize dust releases in the work environment), and the methods for communicating the low-frequency but high-consequence hazards of combustible dust in actionable terms for those working and overseeing these environments,” CSB states in an Oct. 24 press release.

During its investigation of the Didion facility, CSB found that employees had different perceptions about dust accumulation in the facility and what they considered “clean” or “dusty.” In its Call to Action, CSB notes differing views on dust levels and hazard awareness in other investigations as well.

CSB has identified 386 combustible dust incidents from 1980 to 2017 that have resulted in 178 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries.

“Our dust investigations have identified the understanding of dust hazards and the ability to determine a safe dust level in the workplace as common challenges,” CSB interim Executive Authority Kristen Kulinowski said in the release. “While there is a shared understanding of the hazards of dust, our investigations have found that efforts to manage those hazards have often failed to prevent a catastrophic explosion. To uncover why that is, we are initiating this Call to Action to gather insights and feedback from those most directly involved with combustible dust hazards.”

To comment, email CSB at [email protected] by Nov. 26.

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