Combustible dust poses a hazard to numerous industries, such as food, wood, chemical, plastics, and metals. Dust fires and explosions are relatively rare, but when they occur, they can be catastrophic. It doesn’t take much dust to kick off an explosion. In fact, according to the NFAP, a catastrophic explosion can occur from as little as 1/32 of an inch of accumulated dust, around the thickness of a dime, covering just 5% of a room’s surface. For this reason the NFPA recommends that companies control fugitive dust emissions, design facilities to prevent dust from migrating and accumulating, and perform rigorous housekeeping to remove any dust that does build up.
According to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Board the number one thing you can do to prevent a combustible dust explosion is to educate yourself on potential hazards. Just about anything you can think of, and many things you’d think cannot actually cause a dust explosion, such as corn and sugar.
Dust fires are unique because, in addition to the three elements of fuel, oxygen, and ignition source, dust explosions require dispersion and confinement. When dust is confined, a powerful explosion can occur and spread. Dust that has been on surfaces undisturbed for years can ignite during a fire or explosion. The fire or explosion shakes the dust loose and ignites it. A pressure wave results. As the wave travels through the plant it dislodges dust that has accumulated in rafters, beams, and equipment. This serves as fuel for the secondary explosions, which are the cause of most deaths and property damage.
The first step to ensure safe operations involving combustible dust is to conduct a dust hazard analysis. According to a recent article by Attorney Howard Mavity, it’s best to be cautious and even a bit paranoid in determining if you have exposure. If you’re uncertain where to start, or if you’ve determined you need certified combustible dust removal services, give us a call. We are here to help.