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The two employees had been sent to repair a belt conveyor motor that had tripped. Upon examination, the employees did not find an obvious problem. One employee radioed the control room to attempt to restart the motor. This triggered an iron dust fire that immediately engulfed the two workers.
When the motor was restarted, it caused vibration in the surrounding equipment. This vibration mobilized into the air a large amount of iron dust that had settled on the equipment and surrounding structures. This dust encountered an ignition source - likely exposed wiring for the motor - and immediately ignited. It is unknown why the wiring had been left exposed. The team also discovered that the motor was not grounded properly, which could have contributed to the ignition.
There are tons of iron dust throughout the entire facility. The facility was not designed according to dust management best practices and therefore has many flat surfaces that can gather dust in areas where cleaning is difficult.
The iron dust comes primarily from muliple places in the dust handling system that are not completely sealed. Also, dust comes from open conveyor systems. The dust collection system is down frequently due to mechanical failures.
There are regulatory gaps and loopholes which prevent oversight of this type of production facility.