High Dusting, Combustible Dust Removal, Rafter Cleaning
Hazard Alert: Combustible Dust Explosions
Combustible dusts are fine particles that present an explosion hazard when suspended in air in certain conditions. A dust explosion can be catastrophic and cause employee deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings. In many combustible dust accidents, employers and employees were unaware that a hazard even existed. It is important to determine if your company has this hazard, and if you do, you must take action now to prevent tragic consequences.
How Dust Explosions Occur
In addition to the familiar fire triangle of oxygen, heat, and fuel (the dust), dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration can cause rapid combustion known as a deflagration. If the event is confined by an enclosure such as a building, room, vessel, or process equipment, the resulting pressure rise may cause an explosion.
These five factors (oxygen, heat, fuel, dispersion, and confinement) are known as the “Dust Explosion Pentagon”. If one element of the pentagon is missing, an explosion cannot occur.
Catastrophic Secondary Explosions
An initial (primary) explosion in processing equipment or in an area where fugitive dust has accumulated may dislodge more accumulated dust into the air, or damage a containment system (such as a duct, vessel, or collector). As a result, if ignited,
Initial Explosion Secondary Explosion the additional dust dispersed into the air may cause one or more secondary explosions. These can be far more destructive than a primary explosion due to the increased quantity and concentration of dispersed combustible dust. Many deaths in past accidents, as well as other damage, have been caused by secondary explosions.
A pharmaceutical plant after a dust explosion.
Industries at Risk
Combustible dust explosion hazards exist in a variety of industries, including: agriculture, chemicals, food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain, fertilizer, tobacco, plastics, wood, forest, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, tire and rubber manufacturing, dyes, coal, metal processing (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc), recycling operations, and fossil fuel power generation (coal).
Prevention of Dust Explosions
To identify factors that may contribute to a explosion, OSHA recommends a thorough hazard assessment of:
- All materials handled;
- All operations conducted, including byproducts;
- All spaces (including hidden ones); and
- All potential ignition sources.
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