Combustible Dust: Explosion Hazard?

by Larry Timm, AAIM Employers’ Association

More people know about this issue than you might think. Any combustible material can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Even materials that do not burn in larger pieces (such as aluminum or iron) can be explosible in dust form, given the proper conditions.

Last month, more than 650 people gathered for Downstate Illinois’ Occupational Safety & Health (DIOSH) Day at the Peoria Civic Center. Before you go dust-busting though, put March 4, 2015 on your safety director’s calendar—when the Civic Center will again host the 24th annual DIOSH Day.

Consider America’s greatest natural resource to be the 90 million citizens who report to work each day (and if that number seems colossal to you, read my recent column on the “talent war” your company is fighting—knowingly or unknowingly). And yet, it wasn’t until 1970 that the U.S. Department of Labor created OSHA, which was designed to put uniform requirements in place to protect safety in the workplace and expose health hazards therein. About 14,000 people were killed on the job annually in 1970; that’s 38 people a day. Contrast that to 4,383 workers who lost their lives in 2012, or 12 a day—a market improvement. What’s more, U.S. employment has nearly doubled since 1970.

Safety and health awareness is working, but only if you let it. Be aware and protect your human capital by letting the awareness come to you. Here are several organizations that can help you do so:

  • Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. IMEC can transform your state of manufacturing. The organization links long-term plans with on-site implementation services by identifying performance gaps, solving these gaps, and building a culture to support sustained improvements. IMEC helps manufacturers optimize operating capacity, implement advanced product and process innovations, increase sales, enter new markets, and improve profitability.
  • American Society of Safety Engineers & American Industrial Hygiene Association. The Illinois State University student sections of the ASSE and AHIA promote the fields of occupational safety and industrial hygiene. Activities include monthly meetings, guest speakers, attendance at professional meetings, field trips to industrial sites, and student time with practicing safety professionals.
  • Greater Peoria Contractors and Suppliers Association. The GPCSA is a full-service construction industry association. Membership includes general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers to the industry. Services, industry meetings and activities are driven by the membership.
  • AAIM Employers’ Association. AAIM offers complimentary monthly tutorials and robust online resources, whether you are a member of the association or not. The AAIM team will outline how you can pull safety elements into your world with a few mouse clicks, from a three-step stress reduction program and hundreds of customizable training resources to thousands of presentations and millions of material safety data sheets, as well as how to effectively utilize them.

Along with advisors from the Labor Department, the representatives of these organizations are precisely the ones who plan, execute and evaluate DIOSH Day.

Oh, and about that combustible dust? Yes, it’s real—and it isn’t pixie dust, either. Your deans of DIOSH Day, cited above, can provide the details. iBi