Several years ago, a series of devastating dust explosions in grain elevators left 59 people dead and 49 injured. Since then, lessons learned can be applied to other areas producing combustible dust. Combustible dust is basically any fine material that has the ability to catch fire and explode when mixed with air. While most prevalent in grain elevators, feed mills, flour mills, rice mills, dust pelletizing plants, dry corn mills, facilities with soybean flaking operations, and facilities with dry grinding operations; combustible dust is also in areas of plastics, textiles, sugars, rubber, wood, sawdust, pesticides and some metals.
Why is dust accumulation a concern?
Combustible dust will burn easily and serves as an ignition fuel for fire. It can explode if enough becomes airborne or accumulates on a surface and finds an ignition source (such as a spark, hot bearing, overheated motor, misaligned conveyor belt, welding or cutting operation). It is recognized that a 1/8 inch dust accumulation is more than enough to fuel an incident. Such occurrences are often severe involving loss of life and substantial property damage.
Prevent dust explosions and fires.
Should an incident occur, it is best to have damage control already in place to minimize the impact of an explosion or fire.