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An industrial fire in Arkansas on April 21 produced enough smoke to shut down a nearby highway, CBS affiliate KTHV 11 reported. The fire took place at Pace Industries, a die casting factory that has been in operation in Harrison since 1970. The fire was reported at about 9:20 a.m., at which time the 30 to 35 employees that were in the building were evacuated. No injuries were reported.
Although there were no hazardous materials at the factory, enough black smoke was produced by the fire that the Arkansas Highway 62/65 Bypass had to be temporarily shut down. According to Arkansas Online, the fire appears to have been started by a malfunctioning aluminum die process.
Dangers of aluminum
Aluminum itself is not a hazardous material for industrial workers to handle on a regular basis while in solid form, but according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, acute exposure to aluminum dust can result in eye irritation, while chronic exposure over several years can result in pulmonary fibrosis. Symptoms include a persistent cough, shortness of breath and weakness.
Employers can reduce the risk of aluminum exposure through the use of exhaust ventilation systems, protective equipment for each individual and enclosure of any processes involving aluminum.
Aluminum is a flammable material, and has been given a rating of 1 by the National Fire Protection Association indicating a slight fire hazard while in dust or powder form. If a fire occurs, water should not be used in an attempt to extinguish the flames. Instead, sand, talc or sodium chloride should be used. In the event of an aluminum fire, emergency services should be contacted and buildings should be evacuated. Fire and gas detection systems should be in place to keep industrial workers safe and to alert them to exit the building.
Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection systems.