A dust explosion on February 7, 2008 in Port Wentworth Georgia killed fourteen people and injured forty. The explosion occurred at a sugar refinery owned by Imperial Sugar and was fueled by massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the packaging building.

How Does This Happen?

Could this really happen? Yes it could and it has many times in the past. A explosion fueled similar to this can occur when an air suspension of a fine organic, often starchy, substance is ignited. But that’s not the only dust that can go up in flames that is very combustible.

Combustible Dust

Since 1980, more than 150 American workers have lost their lives to combustible dust explosions. There have been more than 850 workers injured. OSHA defines combustible dust as fine particles that present a “flash” or explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions. It happens that easily.

A wide variety of materials that can be explosive in dust form exist in many different industries. Examples include food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed). Then consider grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals, etc. Many people outside of these industries are not aware of the explosive nature of the product.

Trust the Professionals

As you know, in the restoration business you’ll run into every type of scenario imaginable, especially if you do commercial work. So anytime you’re called in to a disaster scene, which may
include a lot of dust in the air, never be so anxious to start work that you put safety concerns aside. Always make sure the air is completely clear of all combustible material, before you power up any equipment. Or you could become dust.