The shocking fireball explosion that occurred in Taipei, Taiwan at a water park last weekend resulted from a cloud of “colored powder” and left 498 people injured. Of those, 182 had severe burns from the explosion that placed them in intensive care, with some suffering third-degree burns over 80 percent of their body.

This event seems incomprehensible; how could a water park explode? However, if you work in an industrial plant or factory in Illinois that produces large amounts of combustible dust, you may understand how such a frightening explosion occurs.

The colored powder at this event in Taiwan was apparently dispersed in just the right way to allow it to catch fire in a terrible, explosive cloud. With combustible dust, dispersal is one of the elements that can lead to ragic explosions in plants and factories.

Combustible dust fires killed 119 workers in the 25 years following 1980, and more than 700 were injured. In 2003, fires killed 14 workers in three accidents and this eventually led OSHA to create stricter standards for combustible dust accumulation. Congress has considered enacting tougher laws, but has yet to pass any legislation. Nonetheless, OSHA is enforcing existing standards.

The compliance standard for accumulated combustible dust is equal to 1/32 of an inch, or about the thickness of a paper clip, and only a small percentage of a work floor has to be covered to create a hazardous condition.

Operators of factories or industrial plants need to either prevent the buildup from occurring, by use of filters and other containment systems or have very rigorous, periodic cleaning, to remove this dangerous dust.

Burn injuries can be horrific, causing tremendous damage to an individual and in many cases leading to death. Those who survive may live with lifelong disabilities. Any business with combustible dust issues must work aggressively to prevent these frightening injuries for their workers.

Source: powderbulksolids.com, “OSHA and Combustible Dust: Standards and Solutions,” Brad Carr, June 18, 2015