Sanding, polishing, and grinding are all hazardous activities that put more than 500,000 workers in a wide variety of industries at risk. Not only is the dust produced by these activities dangerous to breathe in, it’s often times also combustible, which is why safe, compliant and well maintained industrial dust collection systems are so vital.

According to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, there were 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005, which caused 119 fatalities, injured another 718 people, and did extensive damage to numerous industrial facilities. In 2010, titanium dust caused an explosion in West Virginia, which killed three workers.

The first step in preventing such incidents is to learn about combustible dust. Here are some of the basics.

What Is Combustible Dust?

Combustible dust is basically any fine material that could catch fire and explode when mixed with air. Some nonmetallic inorganic materials, many metals, and most solid organic materials — such as sugar, flour, grain, and wood — are all considered combustible dusts if the particles are the right size and concentration.

What Are the Most Common Types of Combustible Dust?

There are several different materials that can become combustible, depending on the situation. Some of the most common examples include aluminum, titanium, magnesium, plastics, textiles, wood, rubber, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, coal, sulphur, zinc, bronze, and even some agricultural products like powdered milk, sugar, and rice.

What Can Be Done About Combustible Dusts?

Luckily, there are safe ways to mitigate combustible dust such as well-designed and code compliant downdraft tables — combustible dust collection systems — that help collect all of the fine dust produced from a dust-producing process, thus minimizing any hazardous situations from arising. These dust collection systems are particularly advantageous in that they help prevent explosions, but also improve the air quality of a facility. Before dust settles, it floats in the air, where employees can breathe it in, and get sick. These dust collection systems will not only help keep employees safe, but help keep them healthy, too.

If you work in a facility that grinds, sands, welds, or brazes, then there is a strong reason why you need a dust collection system. Without such a piece of equipment, extremely dangerous situations can arise, particularly as it relates to combustible dust.

If you have any questions, feel free to share in the comments.