Workplace hazards come in so many forms that it is difficult to keep track of them all in a manufacturing facility, but we need to be able to do that all the same. Fortunately, not every health and environmental hazard is common to every industry, so a thorough knowledge of the specific sector that one is working in should be sufficient in keeping everyone connected to the facility safe. Our focus today is going to be on combustible dust, because it deserves more attention than it gets most of the time.

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A Basic Introduction to Combustible Dust

Theoretically and practically, any fine or coarse dust which can catch fire upon ignition can be considered as an example of combustible dust. It should be noted that combustible dust can often be explosive in nature, although that is not a mandatory criterion for the particles to be classified as such. Not to be confused with gaseous ignition hazards such as methane, all combustible dust is solid in nature.

Examples of Combustible Dust

As per the official definition explained above, combustible dust particles can be generated from nearly all organic and certain inorganic industrial products. Examples of core materials that produce the ignitable dust particles include, but are most certainly not limited to:

  • Wood
  • Coal
  • Rubber
  • Fabric
  • Eggs
  • Starch
  • Dust and pesticides from agricultural produce (grains, sugar, etc.)
  • Sulphur
  • Certain variants of plastic

Industries that Produce Hazardous Combustible Dust

The list would be too long if we were to include every industry that produces at least some degree of ignitable, solid dust as a byproduct. Instead of stretching the list unnecessarily, we will focus on industries that produce dangerously combustible dust particles the most. Consider the following examples as a guiding reference above all else:

Agriculture – Farms, farming fields, animal farms, granaries, food processing plants, agricultural produce packaging facilities, the pesticide industry, etc. all create ignitable dust

Pharmaceuticals and Chemical Plants – From the regular OTC meds and controlled prescription drugs, to industrial-grade cleaners and household disinfectants; most pharmaceutical products create massive amounts of combustible dust as byproducts during manufacturing. In fact, these companies also produce the highest amount of explosive dust.

Metal Processing – Magnesium, zinc, carbon, iron and most other metals are incendiary, so it is only natural for the dust from these processing units to also be highly combustible as a result.

Preventing Fires and Explosions in Industrial Facilities and Farms

It is difficult, but not impossible to control both the spread and on-spot ignition of combustible and explosive dust particles from manufacturing/processing units. There are several measures of course, but the most important equipment is a combustible dust vacuum. These industrial vacuum cleaners are specially designed to safely collect all types of combustible dust particles before they can spread or ignite. The combustible dust vacuum is now considered to be a mandatory device across multiple industries that produce the aforementioned particles in the highest quantity.

It is hoped that more companies in these segments will acknowledge the explosive dangers that combustible dust poses to the surrounding environment and the production units themselves. With the proper precautions in place, it is possible to avoid tragic and financially disastrous accidents from either happening in the first place, or at least bringing down their impact and frequency to a great extent.