NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/NewsChannel 5) - Each year, people are killed and maimed by explosions of finely powdered wood, metal or chemicals at factories around the country. Safety experts have studied the threat posed by dust at industrial sites for almost a decade, yet tighter regulations are still years away.
Among the reasons for the delay are a cumbersome rulemaking process and disagreement among federal agencies about how to best tackle the problem.
Experts and grieving family members said they're frustrated it's taken so long to beef up protections at factories that are susceptible to dust explosions.
Combustible dust has been linked to at least six deaths at factories this year, five of them in separate accidents at a Gallatin, Tennessee plant that makes metal powders for automotive and industrial uses.
A flash fire at the Hoeganaes Plant on May 27 killed three workers. The explosion caused by a corroded pipe leaking hydrogen gas ignited combustible iron dust. Witnesses reported seeing burning dust raining down after the hydrogen gas explosion.
Federal investigators said in May that they had found alarming levels of flammable dust inside the plant, which caused two previous fires.
The company said it has made improvements. However, U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators warned the company not to re-open until the plant is redesigned to prevent future explosions.
Investigators will also discuss two earlier fires at the plant. Those happened in January and March of this year. Two workers died in the January flash fire.