Dust In The Wind: The Dangers of Combustible Dust

Do you know if your company is at risk for combustible dust explosions? Are your employees aware that a hazard within combustible dust even exists? In multiple combustible dust accidents between 2008 and 2012, employees and employers alike were often ignorant of the fact that combustible dust was a hazard. In an article written by the Chemical Safety Board, they documented 50 separate incidents of combustible dust explosions. Of those accidents, all 50 were deemed  preventable.

NFPA 654 (2013 Edition): “Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids” defines a combustible dust as follows: “A finely divided combustible particulate solid that presents a flash fire hazard or explosion hazard when suspended in air or the process-specific oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations.” In addition, a combustible particulate solid is defined as: “Any solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape, or chemical composition that presents a fire hazard.”

According to OSHA, examples of combustible dusts include, but are not limited to:

• Metal dust such as aluminum and magnesium.

• Wood dust

• Coal and other carbon dusts.

• Plastic dust and additives

• Biosolids

• Other organic dust such as sugar, paper, soap, and dried blood.

• Certain textile materials

Going further, examples of material that could be involved in an explosion are as follows: food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc).

In March of 2008, OSHA began publishing information about combustible dust. They also started doing inspections of facilities it knew dealt with combustible dusts. Because of this awareness, OSHA has performed over 800 inspections and issued nearly 4,000 violations with fines and penalties that exceed a million dollars.

Listed below are the most common industries handling combustible dust:

• Agriculture

• Food Products

• Chemicals

• Textiles

• Forest and Furniture Products

• Metal Processing

• Tire and Rubber Manufacturing

• Paper Products

• Pharmaceuticals

• Wastewater Treatment

• Recycling Operations (metal, paper, and plastic)

• Coal Dust – Coal Handling and Processing Operations

NFPA 652 requires ALL facilities that process, handle, convey, or manufacture combustible dust have their dust levels tested. What some don’t realize is that this is needed even if your type of dust doesn’t have a history of causing an incident. Not getting your dust tested can cost you citations or, worst case scenario, a combustible dust incident that results in injury or death. If you determine combustible dust is a potential issue, a combustible dust program should be implemented based upon OSHA’s national emphasis program.

This is where Safety Consulting and Compliance can help you.  We are ahead of the industry standards and have full comprehension on programs that can be enacted in order to maintain a safe work environment.  Give us a call at 631-642-7350 or stop by our contact page and we will get back to you as soon as possible!  Fill out the contact page to also receive our helpful emails with great safety tips for your business.