U.S. Chemical Safety Board Says Hoeganaes Corporation Flash Fire Accidents in Tennessee Involved Combustible Metal Dust
NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), an independent federal agency charged with investigating chemical accidents, today released test results confirming that two flash fires which occurred at the Hoeganaes Corporation plant in Gallatin, Tennessee this year involved the combustion of iron powder which had accumulated throughout the facility and became airborne in combustible concentrations. Click here for the full CSB news release.
A flash fire on January 31 killed one worker and seriously burned another. A similar fire occurred on March 29 and caused one injury.
The Hoeganaes plant, which employs approximately 175 workers, manufactures “atomized” iron powder that is sold to the automotive and other industries for the production of metal parts using powder metallurgy.
“Tests conducted on samples of metal powder – collected from the plant – determined that this material is combustible,” said CSB Investigator-in-Charge Johnnie Banks.
“The team observed significant quantities of metal dust on surfaces within close proximity to the incident locations. This was of particular concern as metal dust flash fires present a greater burn injury threat than flammable gas or vapor flash fires. Metal dust fires have the potential to radiate more heat and some metals burn at extremely high temperatures in comparison to other combustible materials.” In addition to visible dust particles in the air, 2- to 3-inch layers of dust were observed on flat surfaces, rafters, and railings throughout the facility.
Mr. Banks said, “The presence of combustible dust was known by Hoeganaes at the times of the accidents; it appears the risks were not adequately addressed by the company.”
CSB Board Member John Bresland said, “Combustible dust is an often overlooked hazard at manufacturing facilities, as CSB investigations back to 2003 demonstrate. Among our open recommendations to OSHA from previous accidents is a call for a comprehensive combustible dust standard.”
The CSB does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.
SOURCE U.S. Chemical Safety Board