Combustible dust is a dangerous workplace hazard. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that dust explosions along have killed 150 workers and injured 850 more.
Industries that manufacture materials have a high risk of dust explosions, but being aware of the causes and employing preventative measures can go a long way in keeping the facility safe.
How Does a Dust Explosion Happen?
A fire only needs three things to get started: fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. Dust explosions add an extra element — dispersed dust particles which have formed into a cloud within a confined space — into the mix that makes it deadlier than your usual fire.
The causes of a dust explosion can be relatively minor. In fact, any event that disturbs settled dust can be enough to trigger it. One dust scatters into the air, all it needs is an ignition source to set off a huge explosion.
Recognizing the Potential Hazards
Industries facing the highest risk of dust explosions include woodworking and metal processing facilities, as well as synthetic manufacturing plants. Inspecting areas where dust is commonly generated and assessing the conditions of electrical disconnects, control rooms, and motors can help keep these places from creating a condition that could trigger an explosion and prevent any untoward incidents from occurring.
Mitigating the Risks of a Dust Explosion
Dust control using a dust collector system is one of the most effective ways to reduce the occurrence of dust explosions. Combined with a regular housekeeping plan that involves ignition control, facilities can drastically lower the chances of an accident involving dust cloud ignition. Personnel should likewise know the proper preventative measures so they know what to do if an actual dust explosion occurs.
Eliminating the risks of combustible dust requires regular facility inspections, the effective use of dust collector systems, and making sure that no accidental ignitions could occur. As long a facility practices the proper preventative measures, the chance of dust explosions happening lessens by a significant amount.