CSB Says Poorly Designed Dust Collection System Led to Plant Fire

The October 2012 fire burned seven workers at an East Rutherford, N.J., plant.

An investigative report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board concludes that a flash fire that burned seven workers at a US Ink production plant in East Rutherford, N.J., in October 2012 resulted from the accumulation of combustible dust inside a poorly designed dust collection system that the company failed to test prior to operation. The collection system was installed only four days before the fire.

The agency's investigation found that the flawed system only took one day to accumulate enough combustible dust and hydrocarbons in the ductwork to overheat and cause the flash fire at the facility. The volume of the air flow and air velocity in the dust collection system was significantly below industry recommendations.

"Although OSHA's investigation of this accident deemed it a combustible dust explosion, it did not issue any dust-related citations, doubtless hampered by the fact that there is no comprehensive combustible dust regulatory standard," said CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso. "An OSHA standard would likely have required compliance with National Fire Protection Association codes that speak directly to such critical factors as dust containment and collection, hazard analysis, testing, ventilation, air flow, and fire suppression."

CSB released the report Jan. 15 at a public meeting in East Rutherford.

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