Annual Combustible Dust Incident Report Released

Dust Safety Science issued its fifth annual report on combustible dust fires and explosions this week.

5 Min Read
Representative imageImage courtesy of Pixabay

For the fifth year in a row, the team at Dust Safety Science has compiled and analyzed combustible dust incidents from around the world. As of December 31, 2020, they captured almost 1000 incidents in their incident reports along with a detailed analysis of the materials, industries and equipment involved.

Dust Safety Science aggregates their reports twice a year, and this most recent report includes all incidents they’ve captured from Ja. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020. These are broken into fires and explosions occurring both in North America and internationally throughout the world.

Screen Shot 2021-05-06 at 1.08.42 PM.png

Loss History – United States

Loss history from dust explosions in the United States over the last five years is given in the following table. This data has been collected in the incident database and reported in the combustible dust incident reports, 2016 to 2020.

Screen Shot 2021-05-06 at 1.09.08 PM.png

This data gives an average of 31.8 dust explosions per year, 29 injuries and 2.6 fatalities over the last four years. Note that dust fires are excluded in this analysis.

2020 Global Loss Overview

In 2020, 70% of the fatalities recorded occurred due to dust explosions. Of the injuries, 73% occurred due to explosions and 27% occurred due to fires.

Materials Involved

In reviewing the global incident data, food and wood products made up over 75% of the combustible dust fires and explosions recorded.

Screen Shot 2021-05-06 at 1.09.35 PM.png

These materials also resulted in 57% of the injuries and 40% of the fatalities. A breakdown of the fires, explosions, injuries and fatalities for each type of material is given as follows:

Screen Shot 2021-05-06 at 1.09.44 PM.png

The one fatality from metal dust and two injuries involved aluminum alkyl, while three of the injuries involved titanium. The other injuries from metal dusts involved four incidents where the type of metal was not specified.

Two fatalities occurred in an explosion where unspecified raw materials were being added to a reactor, one fatality occurred when smashing unspecified chemicals in a tank, four fatalities occurred during a dried sludge explosion and one occured in a bleach powder drier explosion.

Industries Involved

As shown in the historical data, wood processing, wood products, agricultural activity and food production make up a large portion of the overall fire and explosion incidents. Since 2017, wood and wood products have ranged from 21% to 28% of the incidents, while agricultural activity and food production has ranged from 33% to 44%.

Screen Shot 2021-05-06 at 1.10.00 PM.png

As shown in the detailed incident breakdown, the “other” category includes pulp & paper, high schools, and educational facilities. Industries not broken out in the detailed breakdown include incidents in metal recycling, rail maintenance, display stand manufacturing, jewelry, surfactant manufacturing, plastic bottle manufacturing, chemical processing, phosphate production, waste treatment, composites manufacturing, and textiles.

Combined, the overall “other” category of industries makes up 28% of the injuries and 50% of the fatalities reported in 2020. Wood and wood products, agriculture and food processing, and automotive and metalworking make up 19%, 43% and 8% of the injuries, respectively. Wood and wood products, and agriculture and food processing make up 30% and 20% of the fatalities, respectively.

Equipment & Causes 

In 2020, storage silos demonstrated the highest percentage of combustible dust incidents with 30 fires and 13 explosions reported. This is a higher percentage than the 2017 and 2018 reports which found that dust collection systems had the highest percentage of incidents. In 2020, only 13% of the fires and explosions occurred in dust collection systems.

Screen Shot 2021-05-06 at 1.10.12 PM.png

As demonstrated in previous reports storage silos had the largest number of injuries. This is followed by other storage (e.g., small bins, hoppers and storage buildings), dust collection systems, dryers and elevators. The breakdown between fires, explosions, injuries and fatalities for different pieces of equipment are summarized in the following table for 2020:

Screen Shot 2021-05-06 at 1.10.21 PM.png

Although equipment labeled under “Other” only had 13% of the total incidents, these incidents resulted in 22% of the injuries and 30% of the fatalities. Some of these included a spark that ignited varnish vapours and sawdust while doing maintenance on a staining machine, an explosion and fire in the ducting and mill of a pellet manufacturing process, an explosion of a combination of titanium and calcium powder in a chemical processing unit, a dust fire and a dust explosion occurring while using a welding machine in a dusty area, an explosion in a raw material feed tank into a reactor, and an explosion in a plastic extruder system.

For more information or to download a copy of the report, click here.

About the Author(s)

Powder Bulk Solids Staff

Established in 1983, Powder & Bulk Solids (PBS) serves industries that process, handle, and package dry particulate matter, including the food, chemical, and pharmaceutical markets.

Sign up for the Powder & Bulk Solids Weekly newsletter.

You May Also Like