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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration better known as OSHA, defines combustible dust as “a solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape or chemical composition, which can present a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations.”

The single most important thing food manufactures can do to prevent a dust explosion is to simply realize that the mere presence of this dust, both in open and unseen areas, presents a very serious hazard to workers, and facilities alike because dust explosions always result in disaster.

What Types of Dust Explode?

If you’ve got lots of dust around your plant you should have it tested to find out if it’s of a combustible nature.  Typically dust such as sand, cement, and rock are not combustible. However, organic dusts, such as plant dusts, are considered combustible.  These include a wide variety of materials specific to the food industry such as sugar, flour, and grain, (see our list of 100 things that explode).

How Combustible Dust Explosions Occur

According to OSHA when dust particles exist in large enough quantities and are concentrated, rapid combustion known as deflagration can occur. If the event is confined by an enclosure such as a building, room, vessel or process equipment, the resulting pressure rise may cause an explosion.

The five things that must occur for a dust explosion to occur are commonly referred to as the Dust Explosion Pentagon.

  1. Oxygen
  2. Heat
  3. Fuel
  4. Dispersion
  5. Confinement

If one element of the pentagon is missing, an explosion cannot occur.

Keep in mind that just because you have dust does not necessarily mean that you have an explosive condition.  For dust to explode several conditions (the Dust Pentagon) must exist simultaneously.  One example of a combustible condition is that dust must be the proper size to ignite. In a pile of dust there might be particles that are too large to ignite and others that are small enough to combust. Note that if even a small percentage of those particles posses the right characters to ignite they can do so and set fire to the larger particles.

Failing To Recognize The Danger

Both employers and employees are often unaware of the tremendous danger associated with combustible dust explosions.  Even when they are aware it can be easy to miss signs of a dust hazard if the dust is accumulating on high surfaces that are out of plain sight.

Controlling and Eliminating Combustible Dust

It is extremely important that employers not only implement and maintain a custom program to inspect and test for dust, but also that they take measures to remove it.  IMC is here to assist you in properly removing combustible dust from your high surfaces.  Click hereto schedule a call to discuss your needs.