Combustible Dust: The Real Impact

Keep workers out of harm’s way, avoid loss of material and production time, but most importantly SAVE LIVES! 

The headlines tell the stories. Click on the links below to read about the risks associated with combustible dust incidents. These are just two examples, but there are many more. Don’t become a headline.

Combustible Dust ExplosionAny combustible material (and some materials normally considered noncombustible) can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form. If such a dust is suspended in air in the right concentration, it can become explosive. The force from such an explosion can cause employee deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings. Such incidents have killed scores of employees and injured hundreds over the past few decades.

Materials that may form combustible dust include metals (such as aluminum and magnesium), wood, coal, plastics, biosolids, sugar, paper, soap, dried blood, and certain textiles. In many accidents, employers and employees were unaware that a hazard even existed.

A combustible dust explosion hazard may exist in a variety of industries, including: food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc), and fossil fuel power generation.

Is my company at risk?

Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 in Campaign, Combustible Dust | Comments Off on Is my company at risk?

There are several materials that can produce combustible dust; they include wood, plastics, coal, sugar, paper, soap, dried blood, certain textiles, and metals (such as aluminum and magnesium). With such a wide array of materials that may need combustible dust remediation there in turn are several industries that have such combustible dust materials in their facilities. Some of the industries include; pharmaceuticals, tobacco, fossil fuel generation plants, coal, pesticides, furniture, wood, paper, grain, food (e.g. sugar, candy, flour, feed, etc.), dyes, metals (e.g. iron, aluminum, zinc, chromium, and magnesium), chemical, plastics, durable goods, and rubber.

In 2007 OSHA put in place its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) to inspect facilities that produce combustible dust and pose the potential threat of a dust explosion. NEP focused on 64 industries (SICS / NAICS) including many of the aforementioned industries. The NEP inspections found an average of 6.5 Federal Violations per facility compared to other facilities (non-combustible dust handling facilities). Some of the common findings were improper house keeping of the combustible dust and the use of compressed air by the facility’s staff to clean the combustible dust which could lead to a dust cloud and result in an explosion if an ignition source is present.

For the complete NEP study in PDF:

Elements of a Dust Explosion

Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 in Campaign, Combustible Dust | Comments Off on Elements of a Dust Explosion

Elements of a Combustible Dust Explosion (The Fire and Explosion Pentagon)

Elements of a Fire:

  1. Combustible Dust (fuel);
  2. Ignition Source (heat);
  3. Oxygen in the air (oxidizer);

Additional elements needed for a Combustible Dust Explosion:

  • Dispersion of particles in sufficient quantity and concentration
  • Confinement of a dust cloud

Basically any combustible material and some considered non-combustible (your fuel) in the right concentration suspended in the air could lead to an explosion with potentially deadly consequences

History of Accidents

Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 in Combustible Dust | Comments Off on History of Accidents

In February 1999, an explosion in a foundry in Massachusetts killed three and injured nine. Almost four years later in January 2003, an explosion in a North Carolina pharmaceutical plant killed six and injured 38. A month later, seven are killed in an explosion in a Kentucky acoustics insulation manufacturing plant and 37 more are injured; and in February 2008, an explosion at a Georgia sugar refinery left 14 dead, and 38 injured.

What do all of these explosions have in common? Combustible dust fueled the massive explosions. Since 1980 there have been at least 350 such explosions in the United States, killing 133 people and injuring hundreds more. How much dust does it take to cause one of these explosions? According to NFPA 654, “As little as 1/32 of an inch of organic dust over 5 percent of a room’s surface area presents a significant explosion hazard.” That’s as thin as a paperclip.

OSHA’s Role

Posted by on Jul 2, 2012 in Campaign, Combustible Dust | Comments Off on OSHA’s Role

These staggering figures have understandably brought heightened attention to the need to mitigate dust accumulation that may lead to explosions. OSHA convened a meeting in Washington, DC in December of 2009 to seek input on the approach for the agency’s approach to develop Federal standards for combustible dust. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has numerous standards in place addressing combustible dust:

  • NFPA 654, Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
  • NFPA 664, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities
  • NFPA 61, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities
  • NFPA 484, Standard for Combustible Metals
  • NFPA 655, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosion

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Other Videos

Posted by on Jul 1, 2012 in Campaign, Combustible Dust | Comments Off on Other Videos

Flex Hose arcing