CSB to Meet on Hoeganaes Cases

The commission called the Nov. 16 meeting in Gallatin, Tenn., to collect more information in its investigation of three 2011 combustible dust flash fires at the same facility.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has scheduled a public meeting Nov. 16 in Gallatin, Tenn., to collect more information for its investigations of three iron dust flash fires that have occurred this year at the Hoeganaes Corp. facility in Gallatin. The most serious event was a hydrogen explosion and resulting flash fires that killed three workers on May 27.

CSB also is investigating a Jan. 31 fire in which two workers died and a second iron dust incident on March 29 in which an employee was hurt.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the EPIC Event Center, 392 and 394 West Main St. Pre-registration is not required, but attendees are encouraged to pre-register by e-mailing their names and affiliations to publicmeeting@csb.gov by Nov. 10.

CSB said its staffers will discuss the results of their investigation so far with the board, and a panel of outside experts and others will be invited to speak on issues related to the investigation.

The website of New Jersey-based Hoeganaes says the Gallatin facility is an atomized steel powder production facility that opened in 1980 and was significantly upgraded in 2000. When the agency conducted a news conference on June 3, Johnnie Banks, investigator-in-charge for the case, said the facility employs about 180 workers and manufactures atomized iron powder for sale to the automotive industry and other industries to make metal parts. "Briefly, the plant collects scrap iron, which is then melted, sprayed into powder form, and then annealed using hydrogen gas using a large continuous furnace. This powder is then further milled, packaged, and eventually sold as a final product," Banks said, according to the text posted on CSB's website. "During all three of our trips to the Hoeganaes plant my team observed alarming quantities of metal dust within close proximity to the incident locations. This was of particular concern as metal dust flash fires present a greater burn injury threat than flammable gas or vapor flash fires. Metal dust fires have the potential to radiate more heat and some metals burn at extremely high temperatures in comparison to other combustible materials. In addition to visible dust particles in the air, 2- to 3-inch layers of dust were observed on flat surfaces, rafters, and railings throughout the facility," he added.

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