Combustible Dust Safety Standards Suggested After 2010 Plant Blast

By JONATHAN MATTISE | July 18, 2014

A New Cumberland, W.Va., metal recycling plant lacked a safety system to collect combustible dust during a 2010 explosion that killed three people and injured another, according to federal investigators.

In Charleston on Wednesday, the Chemical Safety Board released findings about the December 2010 explosion at AL Solutions. The board determined that defective blender equipment containing combustible particles likely sparked the blast.

AL Solutions may have exacerbated its problems by using water safety sprays in its facility. The board said water could have reacted with molten metal and contributed to the explosion.

Repeating its advice from 2006, the board suggested that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration create a combustible dust safety standard.

The chemical board found the safety administration hadn’t conducted a dust inspection at AL Solutions before the 2010 explosion, despite past incidents. The safety administration’s dust inspections occur on a random basis, regardless of previous problems, the board said.

In August 1995, one employee was killed and another was injured in an explosion and fire at the plant. A leaking propane tank and unknown ignition source sparked the blast.

In 2006 at the same plant, a supervisor was killed while cleaning out the inside of a mill tank when residual metal in the mill caught fire.

Between 1980 and 2005, the board documented 281 combustible dust accidents that have killed 119 people and injured 718.

AL Solutions settled in March to pay a $100,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a $97,000 penalty to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Additionally, AL Solutions must process or dispose of about 2.5 million pounds of titanium and zirconium at two facilities. It must implement safety procedures in New Cumberland.

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