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Combustible dust may pose threat to Pennsylvania workers


A significant portion of Pennsylvania's workforce operates in an environment where an explosion can happen. Since these instances can cause catastrophic injuries and death, businesses need to take the proper steps to ensure worker safety. One of the most important ways to prevent these explosions is to prevent the collection of combustible dust within the location's dust collection system.

To ensure industrial facilities are safe, the NFPA sets regulatory standards with regards to combustible dust which are then monitored and enforced by OSHA. Experts stress that just because there has never been an incident before it does not mean dust does not need to be monitored. In fact, an explosion can occur anytime combustible dust is dispersed in a confined area and oxygen and an ignition source are present. Therefore, experts suggest workplaces ensure hazard analyses are conducted, reliable dust collection systems are installed, and workplaces are thoroughly cleaned to prevent the buildup of collectible dust.

Though these steps may be helpful to employers, the fact remains that employees have little, if any, control over these matters. Thus, if an employer fails to prevent combustible dust from collecting, employees may find themselves the victim of workplace injuries, including permanent disability. These individuals, in turn, may then face medical and financial challenges they do not deserve.

Luckily, workers' compensation can provide relief. One who is injured on the job may find the claims process complicated, but an attorney can help, doing his or her best to ensure the elements necessary for recovery are shown. This can be especially beneficial in the event that an injured worker's initial claim is denied. In the end, if workers' compensation benefits are recovered, then the worker will be able to recoup lost wages and medical expenses. Then, the worker can focus on regaining his or her health, getting back to work, and moving on with life while putting his or her employer on notice that unsafe working conditions are unacceptable.

Source: Occupational Health and Safety, "Combustible Dust Compliance: Avoiding Common Pitfalls," Tony Supine and Mike Walters, Mar. 1, 2014

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