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Safety Flaws Linked To Metal Dust Blast

by Andrea Widener
July 21, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 29

An explosion and fire that killed three people at a West Virginia scrap metal processing company on Dec. 9, 2010, resulted when a broken blender ignited a cloud of metal dust, according to an investigation by the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). AL Solutions processed titanium and zirconium at the plant in New Cumberland, about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh. After the explosion, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration cited AL Solutions for 18 worker safety violations, including one involving the use of an unsafe water sprinkler system with flammable materials. The firm likely could have prevented the explosion if it had followed National Fire Protection Association standards, CSB says in its final report on the accident. For example, the company controlled metal dust primarily through “housekeeping” methods rather than installing a collection system. OSHA might have caught the problems earlier if it had inspected the facility after previous fires there, the report notes. CSB reiterates its recommendation that OSHA move forward with its regulation, proposed in 2006, to better control industrial dust. Metal and other dust accidents have killed 29 people since 2008, according to CSB.


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