Combustible dust isn't going away

How are you dealing with dust?

By Seán Ottewell

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Dust explosions continue to take lives. For instance, one last June at the Union Mills Co-op, Union Mills, Ind., caused by ignition of grain dust left one worker dead. The blast wrecked a concrete silo at the site, a large complex that also stores fertilizer. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), grain-handling facilities across the nation over the last 35 years have suffered more than 500 explosions, killing 180 people and injuring more than 675. The risk of dust explosion afflicts many process plants, too, of course.

Dealing with dust is a serious matter — and one recent court case has given it a new dimension.

Last November, Craig Sanborn, owner of a munitions plant in Lancaster, N.H., was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison after his conviction for manslaughter. This followed the death of two workers in a November 2010 dust-related blast at the plant. Prosecutors say he was reckless in manufacturing, testing and storing gun powder, and failed to adequately train the two workers who died.

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