U.S. grain dust explosions total 18 in 1998

by Teresa Acklin
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   MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — The 18 agricultural dust explosions reported in the United States in 1998 was the largest number in more than 10 years, according to Robert W. Schoeff, a consultant and professor emeritus at Kansas State University, Manhattan, and Ralph Regan, retired safety director at the Federal Grain Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

   The 18 dust explosions reported in 1998 compared with 16 in 1997, 13 in 1996 and the 10-year average of 13.5 explosions. The 1998 total was the largest since 1986, when 21 explosions were reported.

   The number of agricultural dust explosions in the United States has been below 20 each year since 1987. The recent peak was 44 in 1980.

   The 1998 explosions resulted in seven fatalities and 24 injuries. The explosion at the DeBruce Grain, Inc. elevator in Haysville, a suburb of Wichita, Kansas, U.S., accounted for all those killed and 10 of the injured.

   Of the 18 explosions, 11 occurred in grain elevators. Three explosions were reported in feed mills, along with one each in a wet corn mill, frozen dough factory, sugar plant and aircraft factory. In 11 instances, the primary explosion occurred in bucket elevators. Other locations included pellet dryer, storage bin, warehouse basement, polishing room and three unknown.

   The probable ignition source was bearing failure and hot metal in three instances each, electrical in two instances and fire, welding and truck backfire in one each. Ignition source was unknown in seven instances.

   Dust explosions occurred in 13 different states, led by Kansas with six explosions and one each in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.