Category Archive: Fire Safety

What is Combustible Dust?


Combustible dust is a common threat in many industries and applications. It consists of small particles of material that can catch fire or explode when exposed to a heat source. Common combustible dust includes soot, coal, flour, sawdust, cotton fibers, fine metal powders, and more. While some combustible materials may not be incendiary under normal conditions, they become combustible when they achieve a specific particle size, consistency, and concentration. 

Dust is a particularly insidious fire risk because it can build up out of sight on corners, air ducts, rafters, drop ceilings, and other flat surfaces. Even equipment that is used to remove dust, such as vacuums and dusters can collect dangerous levels of otherwise safe dust and create a fire hazard. 

What is Combustible Dust? 

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Standard 654, combustible dust is “a finely divided combustible particulate solid that represents a flash-fire hazard or explosion hazard when suspended in air or the process-specific oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations.” Dust poses an especially grave risk due to the speed with which it can ignite. With high concentrations, combustible dust can easily create damaging explosions and flash-fires that spread rapidly. Many materials have combustible potential as dust, regardless of the flammability of the material in its usual form. 

Is Wood Dust Combustible?

Wood is a common material in numerous applications, from construction materials to furniture and agriculture. Wood dust is particularly combustible. Woodcutting, sawing, and sanding applications release fine particulates into the air, while sawdust, wood shavings, and even wooden beams can passively release dust to collect on hidden surfaces.  

Is Aluminum Dust Combustible?

Aluminum is an excellent example of a non-combustible metal that becomes combustible in powder form. Aluminum dust, also known as aluminum fines, is often released during machining operations such as cutting, grinding, burring, sawing, sanding, and milling. Fine aluminum particles can collect in the air and create an explosion risk.

How to Determine if Dust is Combustible 

The combustion potential of dust depends on the material, particle size, and concentration. Inspectors determine the combustion potential of specific dust using two measurements: the Kst value and Pmax value. The Kst value of combustible dust is the measurement of the potential severity of an explosion based on the moisture content, size, and elemental makeup of the dust particles. The Pmax value refers to the maximum potential force that an explosion of a particular dust will produce. 

Common Combustible Dusts

Some of the most common combustible dusts include: 

  • Food Products: Grains, sugar, powdered milk, flour, cornstarch, and cocoa
  • Pharmaceuticals: Vitamins, chemicals, talcum powder, and oral solids.
  • Wood: Sawdust, wood dust, and wood flour
  • Textiles: Cotton fly, cotton fibers, and nylon dust
  • Plastics: Polypropylene, phenolic, and polyethylene
  • Resins: Phenol-formaldehyde, epoxy, and plastic resins
  • Biosolids: Human waste, animal waste, and fertilizer
  • Metals: Aluminum, titanium, iron, and magnesium
  • Carbon Dust and Coal
  • Sulfur

Industries at Risk of Combustible Dust

These materials are incorporated into an extensive number of industries and applications. Industries that are at risk of combustible dust explosions include:

  • Agriculture
  • Chemical Manufacturing
  • Fertilizer Production
  • Food Manufacturing
  • Furniture Manufacturing
  • Metal Processing
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
  • Rubber Manufacturing
  • Tobacco Processing


Worker cleaning pipes that have collected combustible dust

Avoiding Combustible Dust Explosions

Combustible dust is particularly dangerous in industrial settings. Not only do industrial processes create a high level of dust, but they also use electrical equipment, flames, and other potential sources of combustion. 

Fortunately, OSHA has established the following preventative measures to avoid combustible dust buildup: 

  • Install Dust Collection Systems: Use standardized dust-collection systems to capture dust before it can escape into the surrounding air. 
  • Use Specialized Containment: Store collected dust in specifically engineered containers designed to hold combustible dust. 
  • Clean Regularly: Establish a schedule for regular housekeeping to remove dust from equipment and horizontal surfaces such as floors, ducts, pipes, beams, ledges, and hoods to prevent dust accumulation. 
  • Purchase Downdraft Tables: Specially designed industrial downdraft tables help to minimize the release of dust into the workspace.
  • Train Your Employees: Ensure that employees are aware of the dangers of combustible dust, and the importance of preventative measures such as daily cleaning and safe equipment handling.
  • Monitor and Inspect: OSHA recommends establishing easy access to hidden areas where dust collection is likely, for both internal and OSHA inspections. Regularly inspect these areas to ensure that dust does not collect. 

Dependable Combustible Cleaning Services From IMC

Since 1973, IMC has been a leading provider of commercial cleaning services for industrial facilities. We specialize in the removal of combustible materials consistent with stringent NFPA standards.  IMC uses HEPA-filtered explosion proof vacuums and anti-static PPE to properly and safely remove combustible dust.  

To learn more about our combustible dust cleaning services and other industrial cleaning solutions, contact us today or request a quote


Top 5 Things Philadelphia Restaurants Can Do To Prevent Fires

Open sign on cafe hang on door at entrance.

Philadelphia is a vibrant city with a plethora of restaurants to choose from, featuring everything from Thai food to vegan delicacies. In several Philadelphia neighborhoods, many restaurants even provide casual sidewalk dining for a fun-filled, outdoor dining experience with friends and family.

The joys of eating out can be quickly turned to sorrow with imminent fire dangers lurking in the background of your restaurant. If you want to keep giving your customers a safe, delicious dining experience for years to come, there are five key safety measures to keep top of mind to avoid fire dangers in your Philadelphia restaurant.

1. Make sure your cooking equipment is fireproof. If you are uncertain, find out for sure to how keep your staff and restaurant patrons safe and happy. Did you know that cooking is the leading cause of all restaurant fires? Because of this sobering statistic, it is imperative to keep all cooking equipment up to code and monitored regularly for irregularities.

Deep fryers can be especially dangerous when they have an excessive grease buildup from the huge amount of combustible oil used in your commercial kitchen. And don’t forget about the possibility of grease buildup on other kitchen equipment, such as the hood filters and exhaust fan. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires specific cleaning frequencies based on the type of commercial cooking. Make sure you know how often your specific type of restaurant must clean the cooking equipment and exhaust hood system.

2. Check your HVAC. Faulty heating and air conditioning can be dangerous to your health and pose a real safety hazard for all your workers and Philadelphia restaurant goers. Don’t let this insidious fire hazard pose a threat to your restaurant business and customers. Proper ventilation is needed to ensure enough air is coming in to protect against combustible gas build- up and unpleasant odors that could drive your customers away from your Philadelphia eatery.

3. Keep your electrical wiring safe. If you want to avoid fire tragedy at your restaurant establishment, check your wiring. Are there frayed cords, sparks or crackles in your commercial wiring? If the answer is yes, unplug and get your wiring checked and fixed by a licensed, trusted electrician sooner rather than later to help prevent an electrical fire.

4. Spread the fire extinguishers around your restaurant. Fire extinguishers need to be everywhere you, your staff and patrons are in your restaurant—not only in the kitchen area. If a fire breaks out, this life-saving equipment must be easily accessible to extinguish the fire and quickly avoid serious restaurant property or human injury.

5. Leave commercial appliance repair to the experts. Ovens, stoves and other commercial appliances are the means by which your restaurant functions every day. Take time to inspect your appliances to make sure they are safe to use.

Above all, restaurant owners want to protect their establishment and people from preventable fires that can cause irreparable harm. Keep a watchful eye on your commercial equipment, electrical hazards, fire extinguishers, HVAC equipment and commercial appliances to keep your restaurant fireproof and thriving for many days to come.

Best Fire Safety Practices for Philadelphia Restaurants

Chef is stirring vegetables

The safety factor is an all-important reality local food eateries can’t afford to ignore, if they want customers to have a safe, healthy dining experience time and time again.

Some customers frequent restaurants for years, regularly meeting with family and friends to enjoy great food and fun. In recent months, a very popular Philadelphia restaurant Bridget Foy’s went up in smoke, leaving three firefighters hurt, a pile of rubble, and faithful patrons with only cherished memories of their time there.

Other Philadelphia restaurants can guard against a similar tragedy by implementing fire safety practices in their establishments.

Kitchen Safety Checklist
Following recent local fires and in preparation for last year’s Center City Restaurant Week, The Philadelphia Fire Department issued kitchen safety checklists to restaurants to make sure their cooking practices, facility, and equipment were in keeping with best safe practices for both staff and patrons.

Startling statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration revealed there are more than 5,500 restaurant fires annually, primarily caused by cooking. Local eateries can keep Philly stats low or nonexistent when they rigorously adhere to fire safety checks to protect their people and property, in that order.

ServeSafe Kitchen Training
Fire safety starts with the restaurant owner’s commitment to keeping all staff and patrons safe from fire hazards. This vital step gives restaurant employees the confidence and resources to prepare food in a fast-paced, often confined and flammable environment.

ServeSafe certification is an established best practice training that many restaurants use to teach their workers about both fire and food safety. For instance, above all else, all employees should know how and when to use a fire extinguisher. Also, restaurant staff needs to be trained on how to properly use cooking equipment, and avoid using damaged electrical equipment to avoid electrocution, stove or oven fires.

Fire safety training is a preventative measure that no Philadelphia dining establishment can afford to do without.

Everyday Restaurant Fire Safety Tips
In addition to safe cooking equipment and training, local restaurants can maximize their fire safety efforts by practicing a few key safety tips in their kitchens and overall facilities:

1. Make sure you’re equipped to smolder grease fires. Never use water.
Just remove the pan from heat and cover it with a metal pan lid.

1. Have several ways to extinguish and escape fires. Have fire extinguishers available throughout your restaurant so staff and patrons do not have to waste precious “life or death” minutes searching for one to put out the flames. In addition, have clear, visible exit signs that are easily seen to help restaurant goers get to safety—fast.
2. Have a plan. Create and post a fire evacuation plan that is easily seen by all restaurant goers and workers so they know where to go in case of emergency. These vivid, clear instructions can save their life.
Philadelphia restaurants are often signature venues in our wonderful “city of neighborhoods.” Kitchen fire safety, equipment training, fire escape and extinguisher practices can help keep your staff and patrons healthy, and your doors open for the long haul.

Restaurant fire safety best practices can help save lives—and restaurants like yours.