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Need to know: Combustible dust

April 29, 2013

CHICAGO — Combustible dust explosions are more common and deadly than many people realize, but there is a lot the professional cleaning industry can do to help prevent them, according to a press release.

Since 1980, more than 150 American workers have lost their lives to combustible dust explosions, with more than 850 workers injured, the release stated.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines combustible dust as fine particles of dust that present a "flash" or explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions, the release noted.

According to the release, the key elements that must be present for a dust explosion to occur include:

  • A sufficient concentration of airborne combustible dust
  • Confinement of the dust in a specific area within the facility
  • Ignition, which could be heat, an electrical charge or anything that triggers the explosion
  • Oxygen.

"Some dust is more prone to explode than other types of dust," said Daniel Frimml, technical service coordinator for Tornado Industries.

"For instance, OSHA rates wood dust as having 'strong explosion' characteristics, but aluminum and magnesium, which might be found in industrial locations, are rated 'very strong,' with a much higher possibility of exploding," Frimml added.

The release added that there are several steps facilities can take to help prevent dust explosions, including:

  • Conduct a dust-hazard inspection to see if a potential problem exists.
  • Know the type of dust in the facility and whether it has a high or low potential for explosion.
  • Install dust-collection systems to remove airborne dust.
  • Educate all workers on the hazards of combustible dust.

Click here to read the release in its entirety.