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Flash fire hurts two in workplace injury at resin plant

A flash fire is a sudden, intense fire caused by ignition of a mixture of air and a dispersed flammable substance such as combustible dust, vapor cloud, gas leak or an aerosol or other combustible liquid. It is characterized by high temperature, short duration, and a rapidly moving flame front, sometimes in connection with an explosion. In Colorado and other states, flash fires are known to be sudden and overpowering, often resulting in serious workplace injury.

Flash fires can cause significant burn injuries to those injured at work. OSHA regulations require that workers who are exposed to flash fire risks wear fire-resistant clothing to retard the fire. Without such protective gear, workers are at a great risk to suffer severe injury.

In a recent flash fire at a Massachusetts resin factory, two workers were injured. Early reports seemed to indicate an explosion. Combustible dust explosions can be associated with flash fires but the explosions are often catastrophic and tend to kill workers directly involved. Later reports dropped the explosion aspect and reported only a flash fire.

One of the victims suffered severe burns and was taken to the Massachusetts General Hospital. The two were apparently mixing a resin in a container with other chemicals. The initial report from investigators is that static electricity ignited the vapors and caused the sudden overpowering flame. Where combustible dust is put into the equation, catastrophic explosions are known to happen, with what could be catastrophic on-the-job injury and fatalities.

The company reportedly manufactures solvents and polyurethane resins, coatings and adhesives. The incident was investigated by fire officials, including the Massachusetts State Fire Marshall. The director of the Andover OSHA office confirmed an investigation is taking place.

In the meantime, the injured workers are entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits for the workplace injury. If serious burns are suffered, insurers in Colorado or elsewhere would have to pay for all burn treatments and surgeries deemed medically necessary by the treating physician. It's important for the worker or his family to make sure that the necessary claim forms are filed quickly so that the insurance carrier will be apprised of the situation and take care of the medical payments thereafter.

Source: Wilmington Town Crier, Two men injured in flash fire, Jon Bishop, March 15, 2014

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