Combustible Dust

What Is Combustible Dust?

Combustible dusts are fine solid particles that present a flash fire or explosion hazard when suspended in air under/over a range of concentrations.  More than 70% of the dusts handled in the industry are considered to be combustible dusts.  Dusts that behave in this manner include materials such as flour, grain, wood, plastic, chemicals, coal and metals . Current statistics estimate that 2 to 3 dust explosion or fire incidents occur every day across the world. Every one of these incidents has the potential to become a catastrophe for your business. A dust explosion can result in damaged equipment, downtime, injuries, and even fatalities. Companies that don’t recognize these risks are posing a serious threat to the safety of their employees. Any activity or process that creates dust should be analyzed to see if it poses any risk of that dust being combustible.

Examples of Combustible Dust

Many materials can become combustible under specific situations including:

  • Agricultural products such as, powdered milk, cornstarch, sugar, flour, grain, etc.
  • Petfood
  • Metals such as aluminum, bronze, magnesium, zinc, etc.
  • Chemical materials
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Wood products and materials
  • Coal
  • Plastics
  • Plastic

For more information on types of combustible dust, please visit The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website.

In What Industries Are Combustible Dusts Present?

Many different industries produce dust that can be combustible. Combustible dusts can be created when materials are transported, shaped, or processed as well as well as more physical contact like blasting, mixing, milling, or screening dry materials. Facilities that manufacture, process, blend, convey, or handle combustible dusts need to analyze and manage the hazard.

Dust explosions have occurred in many different types of workplaces and industries, including:

  • Food and Beverage
  • Grain Handling
  • Pet Food Manufacturing
  • Wood and Biomass
  • Chemical Manufacturing
  • Recycling Facilities
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Plastic Manufacturing
  • Fossil Fuel Power Generation
  • Aerospace

How To Identify A Combustible Dust Hazard

The first step in the process of developing a sound basis of safety for combustible dust mitigation is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the materials being handled.  Every dust is unique and every explosion involving them is unique. In order to properly identify and assess the potential hazard posed by combustible dust, it is recommended by OSHA and NFPA Standards to test  dusts that could be considered combustible.  Dust explosion mitigation testing is critical to defining the risks associated with a given dust..  Different tests may need be needed to determine the ignition sensitivity and explosion characteristics of a dust.  Additionally, when appropriate historical data can be used to confirm the hazard associated with a combustible dust.

What dusts need to be tested? What tests are needed?  These questions and more can be answered by CV Technology’s experienced engineers. Contact a CV Technology engineer today to discuss your dust testing needs.

How To Prevent Dust Explosions

The best way to prevent dust fires and explosions at your facility is to keep the workplace as dust free as possible. Some things to focus on to improve dust collection at your facility are:

  • Train your employees in how and where a dust explosion may occur
  • Establish a cleaning program that will remove dust regularly.
  • Use proper dust collection systems.
  • Only use vacuums approved for dust collection.
  • Regularly inspect for dust residues on horizontal surfaces and hidden areas.
  • If ignition sources are present, use cleaning methods that do not generate dust clouds.

Dust explosions also need an ignition source for a dust to explode. The less amount of ignition sources present in your facility, the less likely you are to have a dust explosion. Some common practices to decrease possible ignition sources are:

  • Establish hazard monitoring on potential ignition sources like conveyors, filters, mills, stoves, kilns, etc.
  • Ground or bond electric equipment
  • Remove open flames
  • Develop a hot work permit system for activities like welding
  • Discourage Smoking

Proper prevention methods combined with our superior fire and explosion protection products will help keep your facility and its employees safe from a dust explosion.

Summary

The first step in your combustible dust assessment is developing an understanding of the materials being handled at your facility. The next step is to determine if the dust in your facility is being handled or processed in a way that could create a combustible dust hazard. If you determine combustible dust is a potential issue, a combustible dust program should be implemented based upon OSHA’s national emphasis program on combustible dust (CPL 03-00-008), NFPA 652 Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, and your industry specific NFPA Combustible Dust Standard.

CV Technology can help you in every step along the way to complete combustible dust explosion safety. Whether you need continuing education on combustible dusts, require dust  testing, need guidance on the latest codes and standards, or an explosion mitigation solution to protect your facility, we have you covered. Each member of our sales staff has an engineering degree and take the time to meet with you, understand your needs, recognize your concerns, tour your facility, and design solutions that work for you.