Manufacturing News

New regs on tap for combustible dust explosions

June 1, 2008
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+

Thirteen workers were killed and more than 60 seriously injured in a catastrophic dust explosion at Imperial Sugar in Port Wentworth, GA on February 7, 2008. While the dangers of combustible dust explosions have been known for many years, the only applicable OSHA legislation is geared toward grain dust and dates back to 1987. Thus, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) criticized OSHA for not having the tools to conduct ongoing inspections for potential dust explosions in any environment other than grain.

Recently passed House Bill H.R. 5522, Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act of 2008, seeks to expand coverage beyond grain dust to all combustible dusts. The bill states that 25% of all combustible dust explosions have occurred at food industry facilities.

The bill points out that OSHA has not initiated rulemaking in response to CSB’s recommendations, and there is no OSHA standard that “comprehensively addresses combustible dust explosion hazards in general industry.” While this bill still has to pass Senate scrutiny and obtain the President’s approval, it would require hazard assessments, written programs to define methods for inspecting and controlling dust, engineering controls, housekeeping, employee participation and written safety and health information plus adequate training to minimize the potential for dust explosions across all applicable industries.

According Gary Q. Johnson, Workplace Exposure Solutions principal consultant and expert in ventilation and dust explosions, OSHA, in response to CSB, has released its “Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program.” OSHA has also begun several audits of plants to check for proper safety procedures to mitigate potential dust explosions. As a result, OSHA has issued more than 200 citations for non-compliance. In addition, 22 states including Georgia now have their own jurisdiction and track manufacturers where hazardous dust is involved.

Not every powder has the same explosive power, says Johnson. For example, cornstarch has a Kst (bar-m/sec) value of 202, whereas sugar has a Kst of 138, meaning cornstarch provides more explosive force than sugar. Kst defines the value of a pressure wave from a resulting explosion. As most likely happened at the sugar plant, secondary explosions caused by poor housekeeping often do more damage than the primary explosion.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Fabulous Food Plant: Paramount Citrus

Learn more about this fabulous food plant in Food Engineering's article, found here.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts


Food Engineering Magazine

Food engineering magazine 2014 april cover

2014 April

Catch a preview of the Powder and Bulk Show in this April 2014 edition of Food Engineering. Also, be sure to check out a coffee stick making a real stir and a major advancement in the the pet food industry.
Table Of Contents Subscribe


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!


Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.


FE recent tweets