Seven years ago, a friend of mine died. Out of respect for his family, I won’t publish his name. But I will say that he died of injuries he sustained in an explosion at a sugar factory. I seethe every time I think about it. The company he worked for was so, so negligent. Their dust collection systems were too small and not properly maintained. An enclosure that was supposed to protect sugar on a conveyor belt from contamination lacked ventilation, so dust collected inside it. Dust was all over ducts and light fixtures and was never cleaned. Oh, and the company never bothered to do any safety drills, so when catastrophe struck, the workers didn’t know where to go or what to do.
It’s so frustrating, because sugar dust explosions are entirely preventable. Companies like Nol-Tec build high-tech, custom systems that mitigate dust explosions. All the sugar factory needed to do was invest in and install one of these systems, and my friend would be alive today. I’m so sad that he’s not.
Part of why explosions like the one that killed my friend happen is because people don’t understand how dust explosions work. Many don’t even know that dust is combustible. So, in my friend’s memory, I’m posting this video so people can learn. Let’s make sure these explosions don’t keep happening!
My friend was a great guy. In the years leading up to his death, I didn’t see him much, because had moved out of Florida when we were in high school. But I have wonderful memories of riding bikes with him around Jacksonville. His parents had a pool and we used to have contests to see who could hold his breath the longest. He beat me almost every time.
I remember eating crackers covered in little mountains of spray cheese, and having soda fights with shaken-up bottles of Surge. His favorite movie — inexplicably — was Fried Green Tomatoes. That was a secret he made me promise to keep…and of course I told everyone in school. He wasn’t all that good in school, but he was very streetwise and very intuitive. He could always spot somebody who was up to no good and knew exactly what to say to them to get them to drop their nefarious plans.
I miss my friend. I think I’ll honor his memory with a bike ride…and crackers with spray cheese.