Recently a New England wood pellet company experienced a combustible wood dust explosion and fire. A worker was injured and the building was partly destroyed. The wood dust was ignited in the production room, but moved to a retention bin and resulted in an explosion.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the wood pellet company. A spokesperson claimed that the potential for death was real, but preventable. There weren’t enough safeguards to stop the initial fire from happening and spreading. It spread to other equipment and elsewhere in the plant. OSHA has specific standards to prevent this type of fire and explosion as does the National Fire Protection Association.
OSHA investigated and learned that workers at the plant faced hazards such as wood dust explosions, rapid combustion, deflagration, and other fire hazards. There were insufficient preventive measures in the equipment and processing system. The retention bin did not have spark detection or explosion suppression or devices to isolate or vent an explosion. Dust collection systems and barriers didn’t minimize fire sources. There was an opening in a fire wall that would allow a fireball to come into the chip room and spread. Continue reading →