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Biomass energy creates hazards for workers

While many of the concerns over industrial biomass energy have focused on emissions, explosion and fire continue to cause death and injury as well. In the past 30 years, there have been three deaths and several incidents of workplace injury at biomass incinerators that were due to fires or explosions. As of 2013, there have been fires, explosions or both at 20 industrial biomass sites as well as 45 wood pellet plants and 20 wood production mills, including one site in Pennsylvania.

The risk for incinerator or plant fires and explosions is not limited only to workers. Residents in the area may also be exposed to danger. Most biomass facility fires start from boilers, spontaneous combustion of highly flammable sawdust or wood chips or explosions from wood dust.

Wood piles and masses of chips can be especially flammable due to their high moisture content which traps heat. This heat can become great enough to trigger a fire. Fires involving chips and sawdust are very difficult to battle; at a 2009 fire in Clarion, Pennsylvania, two firefighters suffered heat exhaustion while trying to extinguish a blaze caused by flaming wood chips.

Workers who have been injured by a fire, explosion or other industrial accident may be entitled to payment of several types of damages under workers' compensation law. A workers' compensation attorney may represent the victims of these types of accidents and assist them in recovering these damages. Workers may be entitled to payment of medical expenses as well as payment of living costs and lost wages during their recovery period. If they are permanently disabled as a result of the accident, they may receive compensation for their disability.

Source: Truth-Out.org, "Biomass Industry Plays With Fire, Gets Burned", Josh Schlossberg, June 03, 2013