More than five years after deadly explosions and fire ripped through a sugar refinery near Savannah, the federal agency charged with protecting workers from such disasters still hasn’t drafted national safety standards it has promised to help prevent similar tragedies.
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HOW WE GOT THIS STORY
AJC reporter J. Scott Trubey learned about Thursday’s scheduled Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) hearing and the board’s push for a national standard for combustible dust, the culprit in the deadly Imperial Sugar refinery explosion in 2008. He reviewed CSB’s original investigation report into the incident and a 2006 CSB report on combustible dust incidents. He interviewed current and former CSB officials and workplace safety watchdogs and reviewed OSHA’s previous steps to establish a standard.
Particles from such things as sugar, flour, coal, plastics, wood and metals, under the right conditions, can ignite and explode.
The CSB has identified hundreds of cases. These are among recent ones that claimed lives:
2011: Hoeganaes Corp., Gallatin, Tenn., two killed and one injured*
2008: Imperial Sugar, Port Wentworth, Ga., 14 killed and 38 injured
2003: West Pharmaceutical Services, Kinston, N.C., six killed and 38 injured
2003: CTA Acoustics, Corbin, Ky., seven killed and 37 injured
*CSB investigated three explosions that year at the factory that killed a total five people. Two involved combustible dust.
Source: Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board data
What is the CSB?
The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is an independent federal safety board in the mold of the National Transportation Safety Board. Its mission is to investigate industrial incidents, determine cause, and make safety recommendations to industry, trade groups and regulators. CSB cannot draft regulations, levy fines or otherwise formally rebuke companies for safety hazards that contributed to worker injuries or deaths. The agency is not well-known to the general public, and it has a relatively tiny budget of a little more than $10 million.