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Little-known danger poses threat to workplace safety for many

In Feb. 2016, a manufacturing plant employee worked on a lathe as part of his normal duties. Unbeknown to him, the events that followed would change his life forever. He encountered a danger that lurks in many manufacturing plants throughout the nation -- including here in Missouri -- and poses a serious threat to workplace safety for countless employees.

The man was grinding a rubber-based material when he realized that the material was sparking small embers that were then sucked into the plant's ventilation system. The worker decided to check the dust collection room where the particles were deposited in order to ensure that there was no danger of a larger fire. When he went into the room, which was located outside of the main building, he noticed a small flame that he then attempted to extinguish.

Unfortunately, his actions stirred the rubber dust particles, causing them to explode. The man was immediately fully engulfed in flames. Another co-worker heard his frantic screams and was able to pull him clear. He was transported to a local medical center, having suffered critical burns over approximately 75 percent of his body. His physicians projected only a 10 percent chance of survival.

The man spent two months in a coma and more than 22 weeks in the hospital. He is unable to work and has filed civil lawsuits against the companies that produce the rubber materials for failing to warn of the risk of combustible dust. This is not the first incident where dust particles have ignited and killed or seriously injured workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the employer for failing to provide proper ventilation of the dust.

Whenever Missouri workers suffer a serious injury on the job, whether due to lapses in workplace safety or otherwise, they are entitled to seek monetary benefits through the workers' compensation program. This insurance program helps provide injured employees financial assistance in order to meet daily expenses until they are able to return to work. Those facing these circumstances have every right to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney for ongoing support throughout the claims process.

Source: fox9.com, "The danger of dust: How small particles can cause big problems", John Michael, Sept. 24, 2017

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