You’ve Just Had a Combustible Dust Fire or Explosion. What Now?

You’ve just had a combustible dust fire or explosion.  Whether it was small and contained, with no injuries and little damage to your facility, or it was a catastrophic loss it is important to your employees and your company to ensure that this kind of event doesn’t happen again.  The fire department has just left, and injured employees have received medical treatment.  What you do in the immediate aftermath of the incident can help you to determine the cause of the incident and prevent future events of this type.  Here are two steps we recommend to assist you in preventing this kind of incident from recurring.

 

  1. Secure the scene.  Cleanup of the area is usually the first thing companies do once injured employees have been taken care of and the fire department has left.  Unfortunately, this cleanup can destroy evidence that is necessary to determine the cause of the incident.  Knowing the cause is key in preventing future incidents.  It is important to secure the scene to prevent unauthorized access of the area.  Once the area is secure, document the scene with pictures.  Pictures taken in the immediate aftermath of an incident can be invaluable in determining the origin and cause.

 

  1. Investigate the incident.  Depending on the severity of the incident and whether there were injuries or major losses, there may be several different entities that investigate the incident.  Federal / State OSHA, the fire department/fire marshal, your insurance company, and the internal safety team may all investigate the incident.  Each of these entities have their own motivation and reasons for their investigations (compliance, loss reduction, etc.), but without an understanding of combustible dust issues, mitigation strategies, and dust collection systems, the results of these investigations may not provide the necessary information to prevent future incidents of this type.  We recommend retaining an independent investigator as soon as possible (before evidence disappears) who is familiar with these issues, but whose only purpose is to determine the cause and to help the facility develop a comprehensive strategy and mitigation plan to prevent this type of incident from recurring.  The sooner after the incident that this independent investigation begins, the greater the likelihood that the cause can be accurately determined and the better the recommendations and mitigation strategy will be.  The investigation may also identify other hazards, allowing you to mitigate those hazards as well.  Doing this can save future downtime and legal expenses.

 

 

Airdusco Engineering and Design Services’ fire & explosion investigator has over 30 years’ experience in designing dust collection systems, identifying combustible dust hazards, developing combustible dust mitigation plans, and investigating combustible dust incidents.  He holds CFEI (Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator) and CFII (Certified Fire Investigator Instructor) certifications from the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI), and a Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS) certification from the National Fire Protection Association.  Our team of engineers, consultants, and technicians have over a century of combined experience in dust collection, combustible dust mitigation, and industrial hygiene.  We hope you never have a combustible dust incident, but if you do our team stands ready to be your partner in investigating the incident and providing comprehensive mitigation strategies to help prevent future incidents.  Give us a call and let’s discuss your situation.

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