Dust Explosion Protection
Hazardous Area Intrinsic Safety

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Dust Explosion Protection

Explosive atmospheres from the buildup of dusts can prove challenging for companies. Hazardous area classification is used to identify places where the potential risk of an explosive atmosphere could be caused due to dust based substances. Special precautions over sources of ignition must be put in place to prevent fires and explosions occurring.

Dust explosions have occurred in many different types of workplaces and industries, including:

  • Grain elevators,
  • Food production,
  • Chemical manufacturing (e.g. , rubber, plastics, pharmaceuticals),
  • Woodworking facilities,
  • Metal processing (e.g. , zinc, magnesium, aluminium, iron),
  • Recycling facilities (e.g. , paper, plastics, metals), and
  • Coal-fired power plants.

Dusts are created when materials are transported, handled, processed, polished, ground and shaped. Dusts are also created by abrasive blasting, cutting, crushing, mixing, sifting or screening dry materials. The buildup of dried residue from the processing of wet materials can also generate dusts. Essentially, any workplace that generates dust is potentially at risk.

Combustible Dusts, Know The Dangers

Explosive atmospheres from the buildup of dusts can prove challenging for companies

Fuel for Devastating Explosions

A dust explosion can be catastrophic and cause employee deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings. In many combustible dust incidents, employers and employees were unaware that a hazard even existed.

Why does dust explode? A dust explosion involves the rapid combustion of dust particles that releases energy and usually generates gaseous reaction products. A mass of solid combustible material as a heap or pile will burn relatively slowly owing to the limited surface area exposed to the oxygen of the air.

The fuel for devastating explosions. August 2014, 75 people were killed and 185 others injured after an explosion ripped through a metal products factory in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province. The culprit? Dust. The New York Times

In 1981 an explosion at a plant in Banbury, UK which manufactured custard powder injured nine men and caused substantial damage to an external wall of the building 9. A fault in a pneumatic conveying system caused a holding bin to overfill and the air pressure caused the bin to fail. The released custard powder ignited as a dust cloud within the building.

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Examples of Combustible Dust Hazards

Essentially, a combustible dust is any fine material that has the ability to catch fire and explode when mixed with air. Combustible dusts can be from:

  • most solid organic materials (such as sugar, flour, grain, wood, etc. )
  • many metals,
  • and some nonmetallic inorganic materials.

Some of these materials are not “normally” combustible, but they can burn or explode if the particles are the right size and in the right concentration.

Therefore any activity that creates dust should be investigated to see if there is a risk of that dust becoming combustible. Dust can collect on surfaces such as rafters, roofs, suspended ceilings, ducts, crevices, dust collectors, and other equipment. When the dust is disturbed and under certain circumstances, there is the potential for a serious explosion to occur. The build-up of even a very small amount of dust can cause serious damage.