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Combating Combustible Dust in your Facility

Combating Combustible Dust in your Facility

In many production factories, combustible dust is a notable concern. Factories producing a variety of things from agricultural products like flour and powdered milk to metal production plants using materials like aluminum or bronze produce dust as a byproduct of production processes. This dust can impose a hazard, which includes explosion and combustion if not disposed of regularly or maintained properly.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), combustible dust is defined as the following:

Combustible Dust (NFPA definition): “a finely divided combustible particulate solid that presents a flash-fire hazard or explosion hazard when suspended in air of the process- specified oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations”

Dust explosions occur when any powdered combustible material is present in an enclosed atmosphere or in high enough concentrations of dispersed combustible particles in atmosphere or other suitable gaseous medium such as molecular oxygen. The force from a combustible explosion can result in injuries, employee deaths and building destruction.

Important factors in determining if plants produce a combustible dust is looking at the shape, size, moisture and environment in which the dust is accumulated. If there is a doubt whether or not the dust is combustible, a screening test must take place.

The screening process consists of tests that result in a “go” (yes it’s combustible) or a “no go” (non-combustible).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth guidelines for factories producing combustible dust to lessen the risk of combustion. Although there is no formal regulation on collection of combustible dust, it is in best practice to ensure the byproduct is properly contained, and is something that OSHA is pursuing, although the process of regulation can take several years to be in full effect. In 2013 alone, thousands of dollars worth of citations related to combustible dust hazards were issued in the United States by OSHA, due to facilities not meeting standards established and other dust-related incidents.

It’s also important to note that understanding the issues of combustible dust helps to mitigate the risks and establish a strategy. Maintaining a healthy workforce is an asset of great value and creating training processes to ensure proper technique is important.

There are five necessary conditions for a dust explosion to occur:
  • A combustible dust
  • The dust is suspended in the air at a high concentration
  • The dust cloud is confined
  • There is an oxidant, like atmospheric oxygen
  • There is an ignition source
Fire sources aren’t the only cause of explosions. Common sources of ignition include electrostatic discharge, friction, arcing from machinery or other equipment or hot surfaces like overheated bearings. Often times, excess dust accumulates in often unvisited areas of the facility, including flat surfaces, rectangular HVAC ductwork, overhead beams. These surfaces also produce a potential threat to the facility if not maintained.

Does your factory meet all OSHA Guidelines when handling combustible dust? Are you putting your factory at risk for an explosion? Bedson REPS offers a full selection of mist and dust collection products to keep the air quality at optimum inside your factory and minimize any risks associated with combustion.

To speak with an industry expert and learn more about Dust Collection or how you can safely provide a factory solution for other environmental risks in your space, contact the team at Bedson REPS. We will provide a free, no-risk consultation of your facility to ensure you are compliant with all workplace standards.
Posted by Larry Bennett at 1:34 PM

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