The number of grain dust explosions increased in 2017 but was still below the 10-year average of explosions per year, according to an annual report issued by Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
There were seven grain dust explosions in 2017, compared to five in 2016 and a 10-year average of 9.3 per year. One of the explosions occurred in a feed mill, one in a grain mill and five in grain elevators. Grain dust was confirmed as the main source of fuel in two of the incidents, but could not be confirmed in five of the others. There were five fatalities and 12 injuries nationwide.
“Even with a 40 percent increase in the volume of grains handled and processed since the OSHA grain-handling standard was promulgated in 1988, the number of incidents has steadily declined over the past 10 years,” said Kingsly Ambrose, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue, and author of the report. “Keeping the facility clean, training employees and contract workers, keeping equipment in good working condition by preventive maintenance and the use of dust explosion suppression systems and venting systems are good prevention practices.”
Ambrose said dust is generated when grain is moved, which is why most 2017 explosions occurred in the latter half of the year when grain is more likely to be handled.
“Though explosion suppression systems provide some protection, we must keep in mind that grain dust explosions can only be controlled through preventive measures,” he said.
Workplace safety is one of the top priorities for the NGFA, which dedicates resources to education and awareness. More about this report and other safety topics can be found on NGFA’s website.