CSB ties two fires to combustible dust

May 12, 2011

Nashville, TN – Combustible iron dust was involved in two flash fires at the Hoeganaes Corp. plant in Gallatin, TN, according to test results released by the Chemical Safety Board on May 11.

The first fire, which occurred on Jan. 31 as two maintenance mechanics inspected a bucket elevator, killed one worker and seriously burned another. A similar fire on March 29 caused one injury, CSB said in a press release.

In the first case, CSB noted that a dust collector associated with the elevator was reportedly out of service for two days before the incident. In the second case, a plant engineer replacing igniters on a furnace unintentionally dislodged iron dust that had accumulated nearby.

CSB said 14 out of 23 dust samples taken at the Gallatin facility in 2010 were found to be combustible. Hoeganaes also had multiple reports of flash fires during repairs on furnace belts at a New Jersey facility.

CSB’s investigation is ongoing. In 2006, the agency released a study of combustible dust fires that advised OSHA to develop a standard to address the hazard. OSHA is in the early stages of that rulemaking.