There were five deaths and 12 injuries from the seven grain dust explosions in 2017 reports Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
The annual report shows the number of grain dust explosions in 2017 was up two from 2016. The number of fatalities also increased by two.
However, the number of explosions was still below the 10-year average of 9.3.
“Even with a 40% increase in the volume of grains handled and processed since the OSHA grain-handling standard was promulgated in 1988, the number of incidents has steadily declined over the past 10 years,” says Kingsly Ambrose, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering and lead author of the report.
The location with the most incidents were grain elevators with five explosions. There was also one explosion at a pet food plant and one at a grain mill.
The cause of five of the incidents is unknown, which Ambrose says is often due to destruction of evidence from the explosion. The other two cases were caused by an overheated bearing and electric spark.
All fatalities and 11 of the injuries in 2017 were from the same incident, an explosion in Wisconsin. Other states with incidents were Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon and Minnesota.
“Though explosion suppression systems provide some protection, we must keep in mind that grain dust explosions can only be controlled through preventive measures,” Ambrose says.
Ambrose says this can be done through cleaning facilities often, keeping equipment in good condition through regular maintenance, training employees and using venting systems.