Exposure to dust is a hazard in many occupations. A worker comp attorney Crystal Lake can give numerous examples of employees who are harmed or disabled by dust pollution in the workplace. Some kinds of dust are combustible under certain conditions, making them especially lethal. By learning more about combustible dust and why it is so dangerous, Illinois workers can protect their rights on the job.
What is combustible dust?
Combustible dust is any sort of fine-grained material that may explode when it is mixed with oxygen and ignited. These explosions occur abruptly and often cause serious injury to workers. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 3,500 dust explosions have taken place in America during the past three decades, resulting in 119 fatalities and thousands of injuries. Lethal dust can arise from a wide range of inorganic and organic materials, including many substances that are not traditionally seen as explosive.
Combustible dust materials
Many common substances can lead to dust explosions and workplace accidents if they are improperly handled. All of the following materials may ignite under certain circumstances:
- Coal and coal dust
- Metal dust including zinc, magnesium, bronze and aluminum
- Agricultural and food products including grain, cornstarch, sugar, potato, powdered milk and powdered egg whites
When these materials are ground into fine dust, they can explode without warning and cause injury or death.
Danger #1: unexpected disasters
A worker comp attorney in Crystal Lake is often asked why combustible dust is so hazardous to workers. One of the chief problems is the unexpected nature of dust explosions. When a sufficient amount of material accumulates on surfaces or in the air, a massive explosion may occur with absolutely no warning. In many cases, the initial explosion may trigger additional blasts, causing even more damage.
Danger #2: insufficient training
When employees work with poisonous, radioactive or inherently harmful substances, they are required by law to receive proper training. Most combustible dust injuries occur with substances such as sugar or wood, which are normally considered harmless. Many workers are not trained to avoid dust explosions or recognize the immediate warning signs that point to an increased explosion risk. This lack of training can have lethal results. Employees who handle explosive materials on the job may benefit from talking with a worker comp attorney in Crystal Lake.