CSB presents findings on combustible dust incidents

November 30, 2011

Gallatin, TN – Hoeganaes Corp. management knew of but failed to mitigate the combustibility hazards of the metal powder that fueled three flash fires at the company’s Gallatin, TN, facility this year, according to a Nov. 16 presentation (.pdf file) by the Chemical Safety Board.

The incidents killed five workers and injured three others. Two workers died in a Jan. 31 bucket elevator fire involving an out-of-service dust collection system; one worker was injured in a March 29 furnace fire linked to dust; and three workers were killed and two were injured in a May 27 hydrogen explosion and secondary iron dust fire.

CSB said prior testing by Hoeganaes showed that the dust was combustible, yet the company did not use controls such as a dust collection system or housekeeping program. Additionally, the Gallatin Fire Department inspected the plant after the first two fires but did not address combustible dust hazards, according to CSB.

In its recommendations, CSB repeated its 2006 suggestion that OSHA develop a combustible dust standard – this time telling the agency to include metal powders and complete the standard within a year of the final case study.