Have combustible dust? Five elements to watch for

by on April 19, 2011 · 2 Comments POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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Is any area of your facility at risk for a combustible-dust explosion?

It’s a question many safety directors are asking for a couple of reasons:

  • Numerous high-profile explosions have made a combustible-dust rule a high priority.
  • OSHA’s reviewing comments for its proposed rule – and may issue a new rule later this year.

What to look for
Regardless how an OSHA standard plays out, you can help prevent dust explosions by looking for the presence of five required elements.

Remember, all five must be present. Your best chance at prevention are attacking one or more of the following:

  1. Surface accumulation of dust. 1/30th of an inch is sufficient. Keeping an area clean is the best prevention.
  2. Some airborne dust. There must be particles suspended in the air.
  3. Confinement. Explosions require a contained atmosphere. Ventilation is crucial for reducing ventilation risk. But remember that ventilation equipment can break down. Any ventilation malfunctions should be a high-priority fix before dust has a chance to build up.
  4. Presence of oxygen. No oxygen, no fire. But you can’t address this issue easily – it’s better to focus on others.
  5. Ignition source. Something has to ignite the dust, and it’s not always obvious: In a recent case involving a combustible-dust explosion, two pieces of metal equipment clashed into each other and set off sparks.

photo credit: Bichuas (E. Carton)

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2 Comments on This Post

  1. June 29, 2011 - 6:52 pm

    Nice to know that it requires all five of these elements to cause a deadly combustible dust explosion. Prevention could be as simple as setting company guidelines for best housekeeping practices, and enforcing the schedule of cleaning. It is good to note that you must not sweep, but instead vacuum, otherwise the dust gets airborne causing even more potential risk.

    You might enjoy this article I wrote: http://www.hafcovac.com/dangers-of-combustible-dust/ I was truly stunned by the research, and that Congress had been given recommendations for regulations in 2006 but still no legislation that can be enforced.

  2. June 29, 2011 - 6:52 pm

    Nice to know that it requires all five of these elements to cause a deadly combustible dust explosion. Prevention could be as simple as setting company guidelines for best housekeeping practices, and enforcing the schedule of cleaning. It is good to note that you must not sweep, but instead vacuum, otherwise the dust gets airborne causing even more potential risk.

    You might enjoy this article I wrote: http://www.hafcovac.com/dangers-of-combustible-dust/ I was truly stunned by the research, and that Congress had been given recommendations for regulations in 2006 but still no legislation that can be enforced.

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