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Guide to Combustible Dust: Why it’s Dangerous and How to Prevent It

What is combustible dust and why is it important to prevent it?

Combustible dust has become an issue that many companies shrug off and pay little attention to. Often times, the issue is pushed to the side because companies are not aware of the detrimental consequences that dust particles can have on their facilities, employees and business’s reputation. Although partial exposure to dust can cause sickness in most cases, there are other times when these particles can be more serious.

How many people have been injured in dust explosions?

Since 1930, there have been over 100 employees killed by explosions in the workplace caused by combustive materials. In these explosions, almost 800 other employees were injured. Although the explosions were actually reported, some researchers believe it to be true that there have been more incidents of explosions with no reports filed. Some companies may have been able to slide it under the rug and move on due to no injuries or deaths. However, not all companies have been lucky enough to have no permanent damage on its assets.     

What causes an explosion to happen?

Businesses that handle powders such as artificial sweeteners, wheat/corn flour, cocoa, starch and more are at high risk for an explosion to occur. Other materials like wood, rubber and plastics are also combustible under certain situations. An enclosure of distributed dust particles in a small area can lead to what is called deflagration. Deflagration is the actual explosion caused by these dust particles. Unlike many other fires, the process of deflagration is so fast that it causes an explosion that can destroy the building surrounding it, resulting in deaths of employees or life-altering injuries.

Where can an explosion happen?

There are so many different companies that are in the line of risk for an explosion inside their facilities. Unaware of the dangers behind this issue, manufacturers will choose to avoid updating their equipment or taking the right steps to protect their employees from this explosion to occur. Some workplaces that are at high risk of dust combustion explosions are the following:

  • Aluminum Processing or Storage
  • Food Production
  • Grain Silos
  • Paper Mills

How can an explosion be prevented?

There are multiple steps that can be taken to improve the safety of workplaces and employees. A very easy way to protect from explosions happening is simply a well-kept housekeeping system.

Instructions on Dust Collection

First, there needs to be a set of directions that explain how to handle dust combustion. These instructions should be written for employees and manufacturers to read.

Inspections for Dust Collection

Alongside a set of instructions, inspections should be scheduled regularly in order to identify any possible hazards.

Routine Cleaning for Dust Collection

Even more often than inspections, cleaning of the workplace should be done very often. For many warehouses, a dirty work environment could be looked at as normal. However, cleaning of equipment and areas surrounding is important in protecting assets in the long-run. Cleaning includes all equipment and anything that could possible collect dust and more. While cleaning, spills and leaks will most likely be noticed.

Routine Monitoring for Dust Collection

In order to keep the workplace secure, these should be monitored closely and taken care of immediately. Once a spill or leak is reported, all operations should come to a stand-still until otherwise noted.

The Right Equipment for Dust Collection

Lastly, having the right equipment plays a predominant factor in the prevention of explosions caused by combustive materials.

Employee Training on Dust Collection

Another important way to prevent something drastic from occurring in the workplace is to make employees aware of the seriousness. Although some managers may be aware of how serious combustive materials can be, the employees working with those materials may not know how the repercussions of not handling safety measures in the correct way could affect their lives.

Therefore, it’s quite necessary for managers to take the time to explain to employees what steps they should take daily in order to keep the workplace safe. Employees working in buildings that are at risk for combustible dust explosions should be exposed to the dangers of the environment around them and how to report any hazardous situation that they might come across. A set of regulations regarding smoking in the workplace can also help prevent explosions from happening.     

Who is doing something to help resolve the issue of explosions?

Although there is no possible way to ensure that explosions will never happen again, the National Fire Protection Association is doing everything in its power to make sure employees in America are protected from an incident that has killed and injured hundreds of individuals in the past from happening.

NFPA Regulations for Dust Hazard Analysis

As of recently, the NFPA is now requiring businesses to complete their dust hazard analysis by September 7, 2020. The organization is allowing companies an extra allotted time for the analysis, because they want to make sure everyone is aware of how serious this issue can become. If the analysis is incomplete by the date set, authorities will take action and implement retributions or will force a completion of the analysis.

International Fire Code Changes for Fire Safety Standards

In 2018, the International Fire Code was changed by setting regulation fire safety standards for upcoming as well as already existing workplaces. Although only 42 states are accepting this code change, the states that were not accepting no longer have a choice. Instead of being voluntary, it is now required for states to abide by the NFPA Standard 652.

Preventing dust explosions

All of these measures are being taken in order to protect companies from the devastating consequences of an explosion occurring due to hazardous materials. With the help of these major organizations, employers are becoming more responsible when it comes to following guidelines set in place to protect workers.

What can I do to prevent dust explosions?

Bedson Reps continues to supply companies with the materials they need to keep their workplace and employees safe. We offer a variety of dust collection equipment to help prevent dust explosions and workplace injuries and disasters.  




  1. https://ohsonline.com/articles/2018/09/01/combustible-dust-explosions.aspx
  2. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/combustible_dust.html
  3. https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/OSHAcombustibledust.pdf
  4. https://ohsonline.com/Articles/2018/05/01/Handling-Combustible-Dusts.aspx?Page=4


Posted by Larry Bennett at 9:25 AM

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