An explosion at a grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas killed three employees, injured two and efforts have shifted from rescue to recovery for three that are still missing. The blast occurred about 7PM Saturday evening at the elevator located near the Missouri River. It was receiving grain when the explosion occurred. The cause of the explosion that was felt in both Kansas and Missouri and which blew the top off the elevator and a large hole in one of the concrete bins is not known at this time but early indications are pointing toward a grain dust explosion.
The reason I’m putting this in our blog is that the incident hit several national news papers over the weekend and will likely cause increased focus on dust explosions. OSHA has been looking at a new rule on dust explosions since 2007 when the Chemical Safety Board made the recommendation that a standard based on NFPA standards be developed. In February 2008 the Imperial Sugar plant in Port Wentworth, GA (near Savannah) exploded destroying the nearly 100 year old plant killing 14 employees. OSHA has already held stakeholder meetings to get input on what industry feels should and should not be in a dust standard.
In the original notice, OSHA mentioned cotton gins specifically as an industry that should be targeted. This mention was a result of the CSB’s report in 2007 listing the industries that have had dust explosions. The ginning industry has conducted testing and research to prove that we should not be included in such a regulation. The problem lies in that all (or nearly all) organic dusts have the ability to explode under a given set of conditions for the material. We have organic dust in the gins but it is mixed with a heavy percentage of mineral dust and the tests that have been conducted have not yielded conditions that would produce an explosive atmosphere.
We totally expect OSHA to propose a combustible dust standard in response to this incident even though the grain industry has had standards in place for years. Those standards have greatly reduced the number of similar accidents since they were put in place 30 years ago.
More information on the explosion in Kansas can be found on USA Today here. The Chemical Safety Board is found here at www.csb.gov. The report on the Imperial Sugar Mill in Port Wentworth can be found here. http://www.csb.gov/investigations/detail.aspx?SID=6&Type=2&pg=1&F_All=y
We will keep our members abreast of changes in rules and regulations on Dust Explosions as they occur.