OSHA Cautions Steelmaking Industry Against Carbon Monoxide Explosion Hazards
A new safety and health information bulletin published by OSHA addresses carbon monoxide explosion hazards in electric arc furnace steelmaking operations. According to the agency, explosions caused by excess carbon monoxide concentrations in the furnace headspace during the decarburization process are an emerging concern, and the potential for these explosions is on the rise as the steelmaking industry expands the use of electric arc furnaces to melt and refine scrap metal during recycling operations. The bulletin describes a near-fatal incident in 2013 in which three workers were severely burned when a sudden reaction and explosion in a 165-ton capacity electric arc furnace ejected liquid steel, slag, and flames of more than 3,000°F from the furnace openings. The bulletin describes how the decarburization process can cause an explosion; how failing to investigate smaller explosions can contribute to a severe incident; and how to prevent carbon monoxide explosions in electric arc furnaces. OSHA recommends ensuring that engineering controls such as shields or shelters adequately protect workers from maximum potential blast overpressure, heat gradients, and struck-by hazards from explosions. The agency also recommends written procedures for detecting and controlling excess carbon monoxide concentrations in the electric arc furnace headspace, and procedures for alarms or signals to alert workers when potentially hazardous conditions occur. For more information, see the OSHA bulletin.