Combustible dust is a more serious problem than you might think. Between 1980 and 2005, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) identified 281 combustible dust incidents. These events killed 119 workers, injured 718, and did extensive damage to numerous industrial facilities.
Things haven’t gotten any better, either. Between 2009 and 2013, there have been 57 combustible dust incidents that have killed 26 people and injured 129. In 2010, titanium dust set off an explosion that killed three workers in West Virginia.
Since that time, there haven’t been many new regulations and explosion prevention methods, but things got bad enough in 2014 that the U.S. Chemical Safety Board called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to take action with new, sterner regulations.
Here are some of the safety precautions that OSHA recommends taking for dust explosion prevention:
- Minimize the Escape of Dust. One of the most obvious things that can be done to mitigate the threat of combustible dust is to have compliant industrial dust collection systems. Properly designed industrial downdraft tables are a great solution for industrial dust control, can minimize the escape of fugitive dust, and increase the safety of the facility.
- Talk to Your Operators. Hazard communication of a potential combustible dust is an important element in any dust containment strategy. Making sure operators know how to safely handle industrial equipment and perform daily activities such as cleaning will clearly demonstrate a commitment to making your facility safer.
- Keep a Close Eye on Things. OSHA also recommends providing access to any and all of the hidden areas to permit inspection, and to do self-inspection for hazardous dust residues in both open and hidden areas at regular intervals. How else will you be able to clean up the dangerous dust if you don’t see it?
- Clean Regularly – Strict Housekeeping. Speaking of cleaning, OSHA also recommends that you clean at a regular interval as well. However, be careful. You don’t want to use a cleaning method that generates dangerous dust clouds, because if an ignition source is present, something terrible could happen. In other words, use only properly rated vacuum cleaners and cleaning methods approved to collect combustible dust.