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Grain dust causes US elevator blast

03 November 2008

A grain dust explosion at the ADM/Growmark elevator in Destrehan, Louisiana, on Thursday 30th October caused considerable structural damage and resulted in 1448 homes having a power cut for approximately 90minutes. The homes were not evacuated, following the blast and no injuries were associated with the incident.

Grain dust causes elevator blast
Grain dust causes elevator blast

Grain dust caused the explosion, which occurred at 1:30am local time, but the ignition source is as yet unknown. Grain dust coats equipment and fills the air at grain elevator and plants. Investigations could take up to six months, with OSHA working towards determining whether any safety regulations were violated and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) examining the environmental impact of the blast.

The elevator ships millions of tonnes of US corn and soya beans from the Mississippi Gulf each year. The site is one of the two elevators owned by the Archer Daniels Midland Company in the parish. The other elevator in the area is owned by Bunge North America.

The US Chemical Safety Board has previously reacted to the dust problem by calling on the authorities to act on a recommendation it made in November 2006. The board wants industry to adopt a comprehensive standard regulating to combustible dust in the workplace as exists in Europe through the ATEX directive.

A serious explosion and fire earlier this year that killed 13 workers at Imperial Sugar's Georgia refinery was caused when sugar dust was ignited and exploded. This incident demonstrates the need for a new OSHA standard that would cover a range of industries exposed to this hazard.

CSB is also recommending improved training for OSHA inspectors to recognise dust hazards, better communication of dust hazards to workers through material safety data sheets, and a national emphasis programme to better enforce existing standards

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