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Eight agricultural grain explosions occur in US during 2019

09 March 2020

Researchers from the Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering at Purdue University in the US have calculated that there were eight agricultural grain explosions in the US during 2019, four fewer than in 2018. The explosions resulted in one fatality and four injuries.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Kingsly Ambrose, agricultural and biological engineering professor, collects annual statistics on the number of agricultural dust explosions in the US. The eight grain explosions during 2019 compares to 12 grain explosions in 2018 and a 10-year average of 8.5 explosions.

The explosions in 2019 occurred in six different states: three in Iowa and one each in Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Georgia.

“There are many substances you might not think are explosive that, under the right conditions, actually are,” says Ambrose. “When the grain is getting handled or processed, dust gets separated and suspended in the air and settles around the facility,” Ambrose said. “If there is an ignition generating spark, maybe due to the malfunction of a machine, friction or an electrical failure can ignite the dust. Although the primary explosion might be quite small, due to the amount of existing dust, the secondary explosions can be catastrophic.”

The best way to avoid grain dust explosions, Ambrose said, is for grain facilities to follow rigorous housekeeping practices, regularly maintaining equipment and providing extensive employee training.

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