A new report released this week by Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering shows that the number of grain dust explosions in the U.S. rose during 2018, while injuries and fatalities linked to grain dust explosions declined.
12 grain dust explosions occurred in 2018, climbing from seven incidents documented by the researchers in 2017, the report’s lead author, Dr. Kingsley Ambrose, said. Last year’s figure is also higher than the ten-year average of 8.4 incidents per year.
Ambrose speculated that the uptick in incidents is linked to increased grain handling and production in the U.S., though he noted that many grain dust explosions last year were minor.
“Grain dust acts as a fuel for these explosions, and all it takes is a small spark for ignition to occur,” Ambrose said in a university press release announcing the report’s findings. “That’s why it’s critical to keep the facility clean, make sure employees and contract workers are properly trained, and ensure that equipment is properly maintained and in good working order.”
Hot machine bearings are thought to have caused three of the grain dust explosions in 2018. Factors leading to the nine other incidents remain unknown. Researchers found that grain dust acted as the fuel source in three of the explosions last year.
The explosions happened at facilities located in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. One fatality and one injury were logged during the period, both resulting from an explosion in a Nebraska grain elevator.
Dr. Kingsley Ambrose is an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue.
To view the whole report, click here.