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factory possible combustible dust fire

Almost all manufacturing facilities perform some level of maintenance and cleaning routines to provide a clean and safe work environment for their employees. But did you know that a frequently overlooked cleaning routine is the removal of combustible dust?

Unfortunately combustible dust removal is often not part of a facilities routine cleaning schedule, but it should be. According to OSHA explosions from combustible dust cause employee deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings.

What Is Combustible Dust

According to OSHA combustible dust is defined as a solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape, or chemical composition, which presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations. Combustible dusts are often either organic or metal dusts that are finely ground into very small particles, fibers, fines, chips, chunks, flakes, or a small mixture of these.

All of this is a fancy way of saying dust generated during a manufacturing process from just about anything and everything can potentially explode under the right conditions including saw dust, grain dust, foods like sugar, plastics, rubber, textiles, chemicals, and even metal. See our list of 100 Things That Can Explode.

How Combustible Dust Fires Occur

Any manufacturing process naturally creates a lot of dust. Therefore it’s a great idea to use combustible dust vacuums to remove low level and easily accessible areas where dust gathers. But dust also accumulates on ceilings and rafters, as well as in places that may be hidden from view.

Dust fires occur when fine dust particles become suspended in the air, often but not always in an enclosed location. Five elements are necessary to initiate a dust explosion, often referred to as the “Dust Explosion Pentagon”

The first three elements are those needed for a fire, i.e., the familiar “fire triangle”:

  1. Combustible dust (fuel);
  2. Ignition source (heat); and,
  3. Oxygen in air (oxidizer).

An additional two elements must be present for a combustible dust explosion:

  1. Dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration; and,
  2. Confinement of the dust cloud.

If one of the above five elements is missing, an explosion cannot occur.

Adding a combustible dust removal plan to your cleaning schedule will help decrease your risk of incurring a catastrophe, which could potentially result in the loss of life.

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