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Did you ever hear the expression:  “What you don’t know can’t hurt you?” This old expression might sound good, but isn’t quite true.  The fact is: a small amount of manufacturing plant dust covering only 5% of a plant facility can explode if suspended in the air under the right conditions. Combustible dust can cause property damage and potential loss of life, if industrial dust particles aren’t properly monitored and controlled.

The dozens of agricultural, chemical, carbonaceous, plastic and other types of products manufactured in plants everyday go through a seemingly harmless production cycle, but elevated combustible dust explosions reported in plants and factories cause over 500 explosions every year.  Here are ten surprising combustible dust hazards that you should guard against at your manufacturing plant:

  1. Sugar dust-Sugar is often used to satisfy the sweet tooth, but one of its less attractive qualities is that it’s flammable.The National Fire Protection Association reports concentrated amounts of sweet dust particles that are 420 microns across can ignite and cause an explosive chain reaction.  Don’t let this happen to your plant.
  2. Grains-It may be hard to believe, but agricultural dust products, such as wheat and cornmeal can produce great breads, cakes and the like, but dangerous grain dust particles can build up and potentially level a food plant with accumulated grain dust.
  3. Pet food-Your cat or dog’s favorite dry food manufacturing plant creates dust during the manufacturing process that results in dust particles. Just like people food, pet food can combust and cause harm to life or property before it ever makes its way to your pet’s favorite bowl.
  4. Apple or carrot dust-Fruit agricultural dust may be a little-known fact to many, but we can include fruit dust in the list of potential combustible products OSHA warns the industrial manufacturing industry about.
  5. Tea-Before Earl Grey or Green tea bags make it to your favorite tea cup, tea processing plants need to keep concentrated levels of tea from rising to unwanted combustible conditions.
  6. Powdered milk-Agricultural food products such as powered milk can ignite under optimal combustible settings, so food manufactures have to avoid setting the stage for dangerous combustion to occur.
  7. Activated charcoal-There may be little surprise here, but activated charcoal dust is flammable and potentially explosive in a concentrated environment, so combustible level monitoring is vital to avoid a workplace catastrophe.
  8. Artificial sweeteners-Artificial sweeteners used as a low-calorie sweetener are especially combustible, so food product plants need to be particularly mindful of this dust danger.
  9. Paper dust-Industrial paper dust is particularly tricky because the paper dust clings to walls and surfaces so easily.Professional combustible dust treatment will reach even the toughest places.
  10. Lactose-Chemical dust, like Lactose, is a popular milk ingredient that isn’t widely thought of in the combustible dust category, but its dust can spell disaster for your manufacturing plant employees.

Now that you know which food, manufacturing materials and chemicals can ignite in your factory, get the combustible dust cleaning and monitoring resources in place to keep you and your manufacturing plant employees safe and well-informed about combustible dust dangers while on the job.