Fortunately, grain dust explosions don't happen often. When they do, they are deadly and memorable. A total of 60 Kansans have lost their lives in grain dust explosions since 1980.
Wheat harvest is one of those times of the year when dust explosions are on the minds of a lot of farmers and coop elevator workers as trucks are unloaded all day and railcars and trucks are loaded all night.
It was during preparations for the beginning of wheat harvest that the DeBruce Elevator in Haysville, just south of Wichita, exploded on June 8, 1998, killing 7 employees and injuring 10 more. Workers were loading out corn and milo at the elevator when a spark ignited dust, creating a massive explosion that was felt up to 6 miles away. Grain fires smoldered for weeks.
More recently, an explosion during corn harvest -- corn dust is overall more deadly than wheat dust -- killed six people in Atchison on Oct. 29, 2011.
The best way to avoid disasters like those at Haysville and Atchison is education of all those involved in grain handling, and Kansas State University is stepping up to the plate to offer that training.
A workshop in combustible grain dust prevention will teach advanced mitigation methods on June 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. in Kansas City, Mo. prior to the Elevator Design Conference co-sponsored by the National Grain and Feed Association and Grain Journal. The workshop is free and will be hosted at the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center.
The three-hour training will focus on housekeeping practices, proper grain unloading and grain handling, and controls, with a demonstration of sensors and other engineering controls. In this advanced training program, the emphasis will be on controlling dust in the grain receiving area, spouting design, bucket elevator safety, sensors for bucket elevators and other material handling equipment. In addition, the course will cover venting, explosion suppression and isolation.
“The past two years, we have focused on increasing awareness of basic grain dust explosion understanding and mitigation techniques,” said Kingsly Ambrose, project leader and K-State assistant professor in the Department of Grain Science and Industry. “Now we will go beyond this to research-based mitigation methods.”
As a result of the workshop, participants will be able to identify active steps to mitigate immediate threats, improve their knowledge on dust mitigation methods and have a better understanding of equipment used throughout a grain handling facility.
This initiative is funded through a grant from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.