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CSB chairman John Bresland has released a video asking federal regulators and businesses to help prevent combustible dust fires and explosions.

In the message, Bresland notes that of eight catastrophic industrial dust explosions since 1995, all but one occurred during cold weather, with four of these occurring during February alone.

Bresland said: ‘The recent coal-dust explosion near Milwaukee that caused injuries and damage underscores the danger from these accidents.’ Several contract workers suffered burns from an explosion involving a coal-dust collection system at a power plant in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Bresland added: ‘I call on all of industry to take this hazard seriously – during the winter months and throughout the year.

‘And I urge the incoming leadership at OSHA to act upon the CSB’s recommendations from 2006 to develop a comprehensive regulatory standard for combustible dust.’ The CSB completed a major study of combustible dust hazards in November 2006, identifying 281 fires and explosions that killed 119 workers and injured 718 others.

The CSB urged the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a comprehensive regulatory standard to prevent dust explosions.

OSHA has not issued a standard but has developed a programme to increase enforcement of existing regulatory provisions.

On 7 February 2008, a catastrophic dust explosion destroyed the massive packaging plant at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, killing 14 workers and injuring 38 others.

In Senate testimony in July 2008, Bresland noted that the Imperial explosion and other major dust explosions might have been prevented if the companies had followed existing National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommendations for controlling dust hazards.

Bresland said those measures – including appropriate equipment and building design, worker training and rigorous dust-cleaning programmes – should form the basis of a new regulatory standard for industrial workplaces.

Bresland added: ‘Stronger, clearer regulations and more robust safety programmes in industry will prevent most dust explosions and save lives.’ The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.

US Chemical Safety Board

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