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No increase in dust explosion incidents last year, ten-year average remains unchanging

The annual summary recording nationwide grain dust bin explosions reported nine incidents in the United States in 2023. This means that there was no increase from the nine reported incidents in 2022.  The 10-year average of 8.4 explosions remains relatively unchanged. Notably, this average is significantly lower than the average number of incidents that occurred prior to the implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s grain handling standard in 1988.

Kingsly Ambrose, Purdue University professor of agricultural and biological engineering and report author, said that all the explosions occurred in the Midwest, most of them taking place in the corn handling or processing industry.

The explosions occurred in one ethanol plant, one wheat mill, two grain elevators, two soybean processing plants, two corn processing plants and one corn cob processing plant. The probable ignition sources were identified in two cases as fire and another as equipment malfunction, while six cases were from unknown sources. Fuel sources for all nine of the explosions were identified as grain dust.  

The dust explosions occurred in four different states, with three each in Illinois and Minnesota, two in Iowa and one in Indiana.   

Ambrose explained, “Dust explosions are one of the most serious hazards that can occur in the grain industry. The explosions can also lead to significant financial and personal losses from downtime, repair, injuries and fatalities.”

He continued, “There is a critical need to educate the workers and employers on dust explosion prevention within a facility, including assessments of dust accumulation and dust explosion protection methods.” 

Ambrose further stressed the need to develop relevant and practical hands-on educational materials to raise awareness and adoption of prevention technologies by grain handling and processing facilities.

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