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Over 17,000 combustible dust related fires (1980-2005) USA



Extrapolating NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research Division estimates  from the report "Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities," combustible dust related fire statistics in manufacturing facilities from the 2006-2010 period, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute noted over 17,000 combustible dust related fires in the twenty-five year period 1980-2005. Dust, fiber, or lint (including sawdust )was the item first ignited in 12% of 5,670 manufacturing facility fires/ (2006-2010) annual average. NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research Division estimates were based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) annual fire department experience survey.

The educational NFPA report provides valuable insight into area of origin, heat source, factors contributing to ignition, and equipment involved in ignition (EII). For example, the leading factor contributing to ignition was mechanical failure or malfunction. Regarding heat sources, the leading factor was unclassified heat from powered equipment followed by radiated or conducted heat from operating equipment.

Partial list of Federal Government organizations (page 12 .pdf) that use NFIRS: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Military Services (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy), U.S. Commerce Department, National Institute on Standards and Technology, Center for Fire Research, etc.

  • NFIRS is the world's largest, national, annual database of fire incident information.
  • 50 states and the District of Columbia report NFIRS data.
  • 37 fire departments with a population protected of over 500,000 participate in the NFIRS.
  • About 23,000 fire departments report in the NFIRS each year.
  • The NFIRS database comprises 75 percent of all reported fires that occur annually.

Like many of the above governmental organizations, why didn’t the OSHA Directorates use NFIRS fire incident data when developing the OSHA Combustible Dust ANPRM for the rulemaking process? Only relying on incomplete CSB incident data (281 incidents 1980-2005) does not provide stakeholders enough information so as to understand the complexities and magnitude of the combustible dust fire problem in the USA manufacturing sector. As a result of solely using CSB incident data, the definition of combustible dust is explicitly in “suspension” and ignores layered combustible dust related fires (dust not in suspension). So what do you think, should we continue to ignore combustible dust related fires not in suspension?

NFPA's "Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities"
NFIRS Reporting Form
Uses of NFIRS
OSHA Combustible Dust; Advance notice of proposed rulemaking

About the Author:

John Astad, Director, Combustible Dust Policy Institute, Santa Fe,Texas, is dedicated to educating stakeholders on the prevention and mitigation of combustible dust fires and explosions in the workplace. John also conducts site evaluations and hazard awareness training. He is currently researching the prevalence of non-consequential combustible dust fires, which are precursors to secondary catastrophic dust explosions.  John attended University of Houston-Clear Lake with a BS Business and Public Administration, majoring in Environmental Management. You can reach him

 or  Twitter: @comdust  T:  409-210-1181

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