Combustible Dust – Safely Removing a Silent Danger

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The term “combustible dust” can be somewhat misleading. When you mention combustible substances, you naturally imagine things like gasoline or other explosive chemicals. The reality is that any accumulation of dust particles can be combustible, even seemingly innocuous powder. Dust accumulations give no warning of their potential danger prior to the moment of their combustion. It is important to remember that only a few conditions need to present simultaneously for a dust explosion to occur. These include the dust itself, dispersion through a confined area, oxygen, and a source of ignition. It is also misleading to assume that a dust combustion event is not all that destructive and deadly. The necessary conditions are often found in manufacturing sites where there are other inflammable substances that may catch fire and many vulnerable workers.

Safely Conveying Combustible Dust Buildup

The obvious and most important step in mitigating such a danger is through combustible dust conveying, simply getting rid of the dust that could become fuel. While the solution is simple, employing it requires real expertise. The conveyance system must consider the particular properties of the substance you are moving. There must be ongoing oversite of the system to make certain it is working properly. The development of a conveyance process must take into account the general safety of the facility and the personnel who will be present. It is also necessary to make certain that the system abides with federal and state regulations for the conveyance and storage of the substances in question.

Virtually Any Manufacturing Process Can Create Dust

One common mistake manufacturers and builders make is assuming that the byproducts of their work are probably not that dangerous. While some types of dust particulate tend to be more explosive than others, the most significant aspect of any accumulation of dust is the size of the particles. The finer the particulate, the greater the danger of combustion. Among the industries that are particularly at risk are:

  • Food processing. Dust is a double danger here because it can contaminate edible products.
  • Chemical production. Fertilizer, as you know, is particularly dangerous when dust builds up. Plus, virtually all chemical compounds are altered when subjected to dust contamination.
  • Metal refinement. In particular, recycling plants are subject to the buildup of combinations of combustible substances.
Combustible Dust

Understanding the Dangers of Combustible Dust

There is nothing like a clear example to demonstrate the need for the safe conveyance of combustible dust. The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) of the federal government along with many industrial sources point to the tragic accident that occurred in Savannah, Georgia, in February 2008. A sugar plant was completely demolished by an explosion that resulted in a significant loss of life. Sadly, this paradigmatic accident was only one of many. More than a dozen industries have reported powerful dust combustion events in the last few years.

Utilizing expert assistance to develop a well-thought-out system for the conveyance of dust particulate is essential to protect the employees, equipment, and ongoing business of every manufacturing concern.

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