On February 7, 2008, a huge explosion and fire occurred at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, Georgia, causing 14 deaths and injuring 38 others, including 14 with serious and life-threatening burns. The explosion was fueled by massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the packaging building.


A new safety video that depicts how accumulations of combustible dust at worksites can provide the fuel for devastating explosions that kill and maim workers, shut down plants, and harm local economies has been released by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

"Combustible Dust: An Insidious Hazard" is available online at the Washington, D.C.-based agency's web site and on YouTube. Also, it can be ordered as part of a two-DVD set of all CSB safety videos by filling out the CSB's online DVD request form.

"Combustible Dust" includes new CSB computer animations that illustrate three major dust explosion accidents the CSB has investigated: West Pharmaceutical Services in Kinston, N.C.; CTA Acoustics in Corbin, Ky.; and Hayes Lemmerz International, in Huntington, Ind.

For each accident, the animations show how explosive dust accumulated over years on plant equipment, pipes, floors, ducts, dust collectors and other areas. The video shows how conditions develop needing only an ignition source to set off a primary explosion, which lofts the accumulated dust, leading to deadlier secondary explosions.

News footage and still photographs depict actual damage caused by these explosions as well as other accidents, including last year’s tragedy that killed 14 workers at the Imperial Sugar Co. in Port Wentworth, Ga.

"No company wants to see its facility blown up and destroyed and its employees killed," CSB Chairman John Bresland says in the video. "But they just don't understand what the hazard is, they don't realize that they have a hazard here, until that one day when the explosion occurs, and it's a terrible tragedy for them. And they look back and say, 'If we'd only known.'"

The video points out that dust accumulations -- and the resulting secondary dust explosions -- can be readily prevented. National Fire Protection Association standards have long been available to general industry and, if followed, will prevent such accidents, as NFPA official Amy Beasley Spencer states in the video.

The 29-minute video includes comments by the CSB investigators who led each of the accident investigations, as well as Angela Blair, who led the CSB study resulting in a comprehensive CSB report on dust hazards in 2006.

Laboratory footage in the video depicts how easily combustible dust ignites, as a small dust sample gathered by investigators in the rubble of a dust explosion site is lofted over a flame and creates an instant fireball.

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