Interactive: Dust Explosion Timeline

  • Explosive Dust

    A dust fire is, in a sense, the result of a perfect storm. The powder has to form a cloud in a confined area and touch an ignition source, such as a spark, flame or overheated pipe. Accidents are unlikely, but, when they occur, the result is often catastrophic. At least 900 workers have been killed or injured in dust fires or explosions since 1980.

  • May 2, 1878

    Flour dust triggers explosions that level the Washburn “A” Mill in Minneapolis, Minn., killing 18 people.

  • 1924

    Guidance for preventing dust fires and explosions is published by the National Board of Fire Underwriters and recommended by the National Fire Protection Association.

  • 1957

    The NFPA publishes Report of Important Dust Explosions, which includes information about more than 1,000 dust explosions between 1860 and 1956.

  • 1970s

    A series of deadly grain dust explosions garner national attention.

  • December 31, 1987

    OSHA finalizes a rule to address the handling of grain dust.

  • December 11, 1995

    A nylon fiber dust explosion almost completely destroys the Malden Mills textile facility in Methuen, Mass., injuring 37 people.

  • February 1, 1999

    An explosion, likely spread by coal dust, kills six workers and injures 36 at the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge manufacturing plant near Dearborn, Michigan.

  • 2003

    OSHA reviews the grain dust standard and concludes that it has dramatically reduced deaths and injuries in grain dust fires and explosions.

  • 2003

    The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigates dust explosion in three states – North Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana – involving three different dusts – rubber, phenolic resin and aluminum – that killed 14 workers.

  • 2006

    The board releases a broad study of dust dangers, identifying a rash of accidents and recommending that OSHA issue a standard to protect workers.

  • February 7, 2008

    A sugar dust explosion completely destroys the packing building at the Imperial Sugar refinery near Savannah, Ga., killing 14 workers and injuring at least another 36.

  • March 11, 2008

    OSHA intensifies its special inspection program targeting sites that may have workers at risk from combustible dust.

  • July 29, 2008

    The U.S. Senate holds a hearing, and then-Sen. Barack Obama declares it is “past time to issue a standard to prevent these kinds of accidents.”

  • April 29, 2009

    OSHA announces it will begin the process of issuing a rule to address combustible dust.

  • September 24, 2009

    The CSB releases a report detailing grave failures that led to the Imperial Sugar catastrophe, urging OSHA to “proceed expeditiously” with a rule.

  • January 31, 2011

    March 29, 2011; and May 27, 2011: Three fires involving combustible iron dust kill five workers and burn another at the Hoeganaes Corp. plant in Gallatin, Tenn.

  • January 5, 2012

    The CSB releases a scathing report on the Hoeganaes fires and urges OSHA to publish a proposed combustible dust rule within a year.

  • January 2012

    OSHA releases its regulatory agenda, moving the combustible dust rule to its list of “long-term actions” – items that don’t have a currently planned regulatory action within the next year.