industry application spotlight: combustible & explosive dusts


Safely Handle Combustible or Explosive Dusts with Air Pollution Control Solutions from United Air Specialists

Combustible dusts generated during manufacturing processes pose a substantial threat to worker and plant safety. Under certain conditions, these dusts can create an explosion causing damage, serious injury or even loss of life. OSHA reports that 281 combustible dust incidents have led to 119 deaths, 718 injuries and extensively damaged facilities. As a result, increasing awareness and improving operational safety for handling combustible dust has become a national point of interest for OSHA. Adequate planning through proper system design, equipment selection along with proper maintenance and operation of dust collection systems after installation is essential to minimize the chance of explosions. United Air Specialists understands these requirements and can help you implement a combustible dust control strategy for your company that will reduce the risk of explosions and provide the necessary protection in the event that an explosion does occur.

How do dust explosions occur?
For combustion to occur oxygen, fuel and an ignition source must be present in the right mixture. This is referred to as the fire triangle. Within air pollution control systems, the collected contaminant or dust serves as the fuel, the air present within the system provides the oxygen and the ignition element can come from a variety of sources such as sparks, static discharge or process anomalies.

When combustion occurs with the additional elements of a dust cloud suspended in the air within a confined space, a more serious explosion can result. During operation of a dust collection system, both of these additional conditions can occur resulting in an explosion as outlined visually by the explosion pentagon shown below. By properly managing one or more of these elements, you can reduce the risk of both fire and explosions at your facility.

fire triangle, explosion pentagon

What resources are available to help me determine if I have a combustible dust and if so, how should I handle it?
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Safely handling combustible dusts is a national point of emphasis and OSHA has published several documents that can provide beneficial insight as you review your own situation and prepare a plan to take the initial steps for creating a safer environment for your facility and workers.

combustible dust postercombustible dust pamphlet

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
The NFPA publishes guidelines to help assist in dealing with combustible dusts in specific industries while safely protecting your dust collecting equipment. More recently, the NFPA guidelines have become standards leading to inspectors and insurance underwriters that now require their adoption at companies whose processes produce combustible dusts. Several of the relevant NFPA standards and documents related to combustible dusts can be found at the following links.

  • NFPA 61 – Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities
  • NFPA 68 – Standard on Explosion Protection by Deflagrating Venting
  • NFPA 69 – Standard on Explosion Prevention Systems
  • NFPA 484 – Standard for Combustible Metals
  • NFPA 654 – Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustibles
  • NFPA 664 – Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities
  • NFPA Guide to Combustible Dust, 2012 Edition

How can United Air Specialists help me with combustible dust applications?
UAS has been providing air pollution control solutions for over 45 years and are experts in reviewing dust collection applications and providing appropriate solutions with the safety and protection you need combined with the performance you desire. Air pollution control systems have many components and when you are dealing with combustible dusts, the system is only as safe as the weakest link. Therefore, it is important to review the entire system design from the contaminant source to the dust collector, following up after installation to make sure the proper performance is being achieved and the maintenance practices are keeping the system running as designed. This will help ensure safe and effective capture and handling of the combustible dusts.

Below are some initial steps and considerations when approaching combustible dust applications. UAS can assist you through this process when you leverage our knowledge of the environmental regulations as well as our experience and expertise across a broad solution base. 

initial steps and considerations when approaching combustible dust applications

United Air Specialists Recommended Solutions for Safely & Effectively Collecting Combustible and Explosive Dusts

Contact Us today to start creating a safer environment for your employees.