From plastic recyclers to mills, many types of manufacturing facilities in Ohio create dust during operations. Unfortunately, the build up of fine particles creates a fire risk. A 2012 report by the Combustible Dust Policy Institute showed that over 500 dust-related fires and explosions occurred across multiple industries in 2011. In addition, researchers suspect that employers fail to report many dust fires.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board considers all dust fires completely preventable because dust only poses a fire hazard when it accumulates in sufficient quantities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that dust should not exceed a level of 1/32 of an inch in depth or cover more than 5 percent of floor space. Although OSHA does not have specific dust regulations, the agency has 18 standards for controlling dust.
Fines can run from $5,000 to $200,000 when a company willfully ignores its duty to protect workers. Companies must also gain a laboratory analysis of the dust produced at their facilities even if a fire has not occurred. Lab results provide information upon which hazards can be assessed, and companies must have the test documentation on file.
An employee injured on the job has the right to collect workers’ compensation benefits for medical treatment and lost pay or disability. If extenuating circumstances, such as an OSHA citation or personal knowledge of negligent practices, are involved, the person might wish to consult an attorney. Accepting workers’ compensation prevents a person from suing a company, and an attorney might provide a legal opinion about how the worker should proceed with an injury claim.