Following the second massive, deadly explosion caused by combustible dust in less than a year, the Chinese government’s State Administration of Work Safety has launched a slew of new rules that will, hopefully, prevent such incidents in the future. The new safety directives are the first of their kind in mainland China.
The first incident occurred on 2 August 2014, when a huge blast gutted a 2,000-square meter auto parts factory in Kunshan, Jiansu province. Nearly 150 people were killed, with countless others injured. Preliminary investigations of the accident showed that the explosion was caused by excessive amounts of highly flammable metal dust in the shop’s atmosphere.
On 27 June 2015, a second, similar explosion took place in Taiwan at a water park—an unlikely location for a fiery explosion, to be sure. Almost 500 people were injured in the incident, and twelve have died from their injuries. In this incident, the explosion was again caused by flammable dust, this time colorful theatrical powder that was shot out over the audience as part of an concert performance. The dust caught fire in midair and rained down on the crowd.
Though these are surely accidents of the “freak” variety, both could have easily been prevented. There are numerous methods of minimizing dust explosion risk, especially in an industrial setting like the one in which the 2014 incident took place. A few of these methods involve the implementation of nothing more than common sense; others require relatively simple technology. Either way, just a few small changes could have been enough to prevent these tragedies.
Extensive New Safety Guidelines
China has a rather infamous reputation when it comes to workplace safety conditions. Things have improved considerably in the past decade or so, but are still light years behind where they should be. The new dust explosion regulations are undoubtedly another step in the right direction.
The new regulations include an extensive directory of 45 types of dangerous and/or combustible dust, as well as the circumstances in which said dust might explode. Specifically aimed at the chemical and trading industries, the safety guidelines spell out requirements for safety management at work sites with hazardous dust, technical anti-explosion measures, and dust removal technology, in addition to other equipment and facility safety policies.
With new rules and new technology in place, and with a little luck, the water park explosion will be the last of its kind in China.