Fatal West Virginia Explosion Shows the Need for Dust Safety Guidance

Three workers died in a massive blast at Al Solutions metal recycling plant in New Cumberland, West Virginia back in December 2010.

Now the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) officials have released their findings into the event – concluding that both Al Solutions and state officials and investigators could have prevented the fatal explosion, had they taken the correct combustible dust safety measures. Furthermore the CSB has condemned the Occupational Safety and Health board for its lack of action over a number of similar events that have occurred in the US.

Indeed this is a common thread throughout the news and reports we release at Explosion Hazards, but having a state board validate such claims only further highlights the issue that factories, mills, silos and plants worldwide are not implementing the correct safety measures, maintenance and monitoring procedures in order to prevent such tragic (And preventable) events from happening.

The CBS’ own findings highlight the trend and further expounds the severe need for new federal standards to be introduced to force factories and plant owners to meet their legal obligations and enhance these safety procedures further. Many of the stories we report are from the US and it shows just how inadequate the safety regulations currently are.

The explosion resulted in the deaths of 3 workers, 2 of which were brothers and a long series of investigations into the cause of the blast. Al Solutions processed highly combustible zirconium and titanium, which the report outlines as offering an extreme explosion severity.

The findings of the report conclude that the cause of the blast was in line with a metal dust explosion and states that the explosion likely erupted in the blender which processes zirconium where repeated impacts to materials take place.


Key Issues Outlined in Report

• Severe oversight from federal officials regarding combustible dust within

• Understanding and recognising hazards and providing appropriate training

• No recourse and improvements in light of previous incidents

In regards to the latter, one employee was killed in the facility in 1995 (Under previous owners Jamegy, which Al Solutions took over in 2006). Jamegy made a series of safety improvements to the facility. However within a year, another incident took place with a flash fire emerging from the blender. This resulted in a brand new blender being constructed.

Ten years later yet another worker died in a blast. The tragic death of a supervisor forced Jamegy to change their mill cleaning monitoring and procedures.  OSHA charged Jamegy with fines, stating five severe violations.

CSB found that Al Solutions could have prevented the explosion had they had sufficient dust safety controls in place.  CSB have previously outlined that OSHA’s response to such incidents were “unacceptable” and found that the fatal incident from 2010 broke the safety procedures outlined in the CSB’s extensive Combustible Dust Hazard Safety Study. In the study, the CSB called for OSHA to set standardised regulations for combustible dust fires based on the National Fire Protection Association’s set standards.

The CSB have also noted that the State Fire Marshal’s office does not regularly inspect such facilities but have said before that they are aware that they do not have the adequate resources and to attribute the blame there would likely be unfair.

OSHA have consistently outlined the issues with the current safety standards and their perceived inaction from OSHA.

From both commercial owners and federal officials, steps need to be taken now to prevent such tragedies from happening again. This is not only a problem in the US but a worldwide issue as well. Regardless of state obligations, it is up to plant, factory and mill owners to meet protect their staff.

If you want to protect your factory and staff, talk to Explosion Hazards today for the very best in explosion protection and prevention solutions.

Download the full CSB report here.

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