Of course, the question in the header is misleading. There have been dust explosions for as long as there have been explosive dusts. After all, the connection between dust production and explosions has only been understood for a fairly short time. The example of flour dust explosions demonstrates this.
For centuries, people just accepted the fact that explosions sometimes occurred at mills. But as milling operations were industrialised, the damage caused by each explosion increased exponentially, as did the numbers of victims. In Hameln, for instance, part of a very large mill that had just been completed was destroyed by a dust explosion, resulting in 11 deaths. At the time, the connection between (flour) dust and the explosion risk was not yet understood. When a new, large mill was reconstructed in 1895 after a major fire, it was equipped with dedusting and fire extinguishing equipment (Note 1).
This indicates that people have been aware of the risks posed by flour dust or around 150 years. Nevertheless, dust explosions continued to occur at milling operations. In 1997, a small fire at the Bremen Rolandmühle triggered a flour dust explosion and subsequent chain reaction. The incident resulted in 14 deaths, 17 injuries, and property damage of over 100 million marks (Note 2).
Today, Ruwac's dust explosion protected vacuum cleaners help ensure safe processing of flour and other powdered foods in many small (bakeries) and large-scale operations (mills, loading facilities, food manufacturers). It has been 150 years since anyone believed millers were busy doing alchemy experiments on the side.
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