OSHA has released a new resource, Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust, to provide emergency responders with a framework for responding to combustible dust fires.
Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions. Combustible dusts include fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that, under certain conditions, can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air. Types of dusts include metal (for example, aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic, rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper, among others.
OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels said the new booklet will help keep both emergency response workers and facility workers safe. “Stakeholders that have reviewed the booklet, including fire chiefs and union health and safety representatives, describe it as ‘an excellent resource for explaining the hazards associated with combustible dust and outlining the best practices for pre-incident operational preparation by emergency responders,’” he said.
The publication describes how combustible dust explosions occur and uses previous incidents to illustrate how firefighting operations can prevent this type of explosion. It also explains the preparations emergency responders can make before a response and how these preparations will affect the operational plan during a response.
OSHA's Combustible Dust Web page provides additional information and resources for preventing and minimizing the effects of combustible dust fires and explosions.