The Dangers of Combustible Dust: What It Is and How to Prevent It

combustible dustAlmost any construction, metal-working, or manufacturing business can be in danger of creating and gathering combustible dust in their vents and air ducts. If left to accumulate, combustible dust can cause severe explosive destruction costing your business thousands of dollars in damages and threatening the lives of your employees. Dust explosions often occur in grain elevators, coal-fired power plants, woodworking facilities, and chemical manufacturing plants. To better understand the dangers of combustible dust, it is important to know what it is and how it can become so explosive.

What is Combustible Dust?

Combustible dust is any accumulation of fine particles that can catch fire and cause an explosion. While some materials are not combustible in their normal form, they can catch fire and explode if broken down into fine particles of a specific size and concentration.  This can be any of the following materials and more:

  • Sugar
  • Starch
  • Flour
  • Grain
  • Tobacco
  • Plastic
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Wood
  • Rubber
  • Aluminum
  • Zinc

Combustible dust explosions are not only extremely destructive, but they can also cause harm and take lives. In 2008, 14 workers were killed and 40 more were hospitalized in a sugar dust explosion in Georgia. In 2010, three workers died due to a titanium dust explosion in West Virginia. Combustible dust is not something to take lightly. If the right conditions are created, it can occur and cause devastating effects. In order for the dust to combust and cause an explosion, it needs the following:

  • Accumulation of combustible small particles as fuel.
  • Oxygen.
  • A source of ignition, such as a spark or intense heat.
  • Dispersion of combustible dust particles into a cloud of the right concentration.
  • Some form of confinement for this dust cloud.

How Can I Prevent a Dust Explosion?

The best way to prevent a combustible dust explosion is to clean your vents, air ducts, rafters, and other collection surfaces at regular intervals throughout the year. Conduct frequent inspections of open and enclosed areas for dust accumulation and make sure to clean these areas regularly. It is best to create some kind of written guidelines for dust inspection and control. To avoid a chance of ignition, make sure you control friction and mechanical sparks as well as smoking and open flames, and adequately maintain all power tools and electrical equipment.

Don’t put your business or employees at risk. Prevent combustible dust explosions by cleaning your vents and air ducts regularly so harmful particles can’t accumulate.

To learn more about air duct cleaning services for your business, call Preferred Hood and Duct at (860) 613-1130.