Combustible dust explosions are deadly and devastating to workers, businesses and communities who experience this sudden damage to property, and in several cases, loss of life. Workers in manufacturing plants around the country and even the world go to work at plants and factories every day, not realizing that the materials they handle can create dust that explodes and can hurt them, even organic material like flour and sugar. These unsuspecting substances create dust particles that can ignite and cause serious harm. Don’t let this happen to your business.
Educate Yourself and Your Employees
According to an alarming 2014 New York Times article, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board reported that from 2008 to 2012, there were 50 combustible dust accidents that contributed to 29 fatalities and 161 injuries. This gripping reality shows that companies need to be informed about all aspects of “danger dust” and how to keep these tragedies from happening in the first place. A wide variety of work environments that generate dust are susceptible for these types of accidents, including tire manufacturing, plastics and fertilizers.
To keep your employees and property safe from potential harm, make sure your manufacturing plant is “in the know” about industry best practices and requirements for handling combustible dust, such as the NFPA 652 Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust. This regulatory document will help your company take proactive measures to keep combustible dust explosions from taking place.
Don’t Fan the Flame
One preventative measure you can institute right away is to get rid of things in your workplace that are known to ignite combustible dust in the first place. There are certain risk factors that can increase the probability of a combustible dust explosion. You can help to escape deadly dust dangers by keeping dusty residue materials away from heat, flame and friction or any type of inflammatory source.
The way combustible materials generate dust in your facility can be a risk factor as well. Dust-generating activities, like sieving and blasting can increase the possibility of dust buildup in your manufacturing plant. It has to go somewhere, and hopefully it’s not an excessive amount that spells danger for you and your staff.
In addition, avoid creating a recipe for disaster by not putting all of the ingredients of dust danger together in one formula: combustible dust, heat, air, concentrated dust area and the right dust particle distribution can provide a dangerous mixture of flammable dust.
Make Dust Inspections the Norm
Although it’s not a cure all preventative measure, regular dust inspections can go a long way to keep your employees and facility safe from dust disasters. Surprisingly, it takes less than 1/32 of an inch of dust to cause dust combustion in your plant. Use best practice safeguards to keep a close eye on these dust levels to ensure they don’t lead to a fire hazard.
Through education about dust danger safeguards, avoiding inflammatory dust particle conditions and regular monitoring, you’ll be on your way to avoid combustible dust explosions at your facility.
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:
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.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.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.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.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.
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.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.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.
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.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.