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The first step in avoiding a combustible dust explosion in your facility is to realize that any combustible material can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form…a.k.a. Dust. Dust can explode when three things happen.

  1. When it’s suspended in the air
  2. When it’s in the right concentrations
  3. When it’s is under the right conditions

If you’re thinking that the materials used in your work environment can’t explode because they are not flammable, such as iron or aluminum, think again. According to OSHA even materials that do not burn in larger pieces under the proper conditions, can cause a combustible dust explosion.

The next step in avoiding a dust fire is to be aware of OSHA recommendations for avoiding combustible dust explosions. OSHA recommends that employers and workers take the steps listed below to control dust and prevent the tragic consequences of an explosion.

Control the Fuel (Dust) and Avoid Incidents

  • Capture dust before it escapes into a work area by using properly designed, installed, approved and maintained dust collection systems.
  • Contain dust within equipment, systems or rooms that are built and operated to safely handle combustible dust.
  • Clean work areas, overhead surfaces and concealed spaces frequently and thoroughly using safe housekeeping methods to remove combustible dusts not captured or contained.

Key Responsibilities to Keep Workers Safe

If you’re an employer then OSHA suggest that you determine whether dusts present in the workplace could explode. Not sure about your work environment, then check our list of 101 things that explode. If it’s discovered that your processes are producing combustible dust, then you must take proper precautions to protect workers against flash fires and explosions. You can find additional resources to help employers at www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust.

If you’re a worker and you notice that proper precautions are not in place then OSHA recommends that you notify your supervisor.