Employees in California might not be aware of the deadly hazards posed by dust accumulation. According to the Chemical Safety Board, data for the period 2006 through 2017 shows that incidents involving combustible dust caused 337 injuries nationwide, and it also led to 66 fatalities and many workers’ compensation benefits claims. Oxygen, fuel, ignition, dispersion and confinement are the five elements that combine to cause a dust explosion.
The CSB says proper housekeeping that includes dust control is crucial in the prevention of combustible dust fires and explosions. If dust is left to accumulate over the years, the slightest spark can cause a primary fire or explosion. The pressure of this explosion can cause vibrations throughout the factory, production plant or any other facility, dislodging dust accumulations that have been undisturbed for extended periods. When that happens, secondary explosions that are significantly more powerful can occur throughout the facility.
Safety authorities say the most severe injuries and even deaths occur during these secondary explosions. They say the best prevention of these tragedies involves the implementation of a program to control hazardous dust, including frequent inspections to identify areas with accumulated dust. Collection systems must be implemented without disturbing and distributing the dust. Electrical equipment and any other sources of ignition must be adequately maintained to avoid sparks or other sources of ignition.
Victims of work-related combustible dust explosions are likely eligible for financial assistance through the California workers’ compensation insurance system. Surviving family members of workers who did not survive such accidents may be eligible for death benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help with the claims process to obtain benefits to cover medical expenses or end-of-life costs where applicable. A financial package to make up for lost wages might also form a part of the benefits.