Combustible Dust: Small Particles with Huge Consequences

Dust CollectionDust can easily gather in warehouses and manufacturing plants, and it’s even easier to pass it off as a harmless workplace hazard. In fact, the Chemical Safety Board has found that, in several workplace disasters, the potential hazard of accumulated dust was unknown; therefore, there weren’t any proper measures in place to safeguard the employees and the facility.

The accumulation of combustible dust in industrial facilities could have serious consequences. The importance of proper workplace protocols that guarantee overall security should, therefore, be underscored. 

Educating Companies on the Potential Hazards of Dust Accumulation

During a workshop in conducted 2010, WorkSafe BC stated that “even a layer of dust as thin as a dime can have dangerous consequences.” Statistics show that there have been 50 combustible dust accidents between 2008 to 2012 alone, and it has led to 29 fatalities and 161 injuries.

The figures illustrate how industrial facilities need to strictly implement regulations that control dust collection and workplace cleanliness. The National Fire Protection Association has established a set of general requirements for any facility owners and operators:

  • Detect the combustibility hazards of materials;
  • Identify and evaluate fire and explosion hazards;
  • Manage the hazards; and
  • Train affected individuals about the hazards.

Pro-activeness in Dust Hazard Analysis

A common trend that experts cite is how industries tend to be reactive rather than proactive when managing dust hazards. Once a major incident has occurred, companies have no problem reacting to the issue and employing dust and ignition control measures to protect workers. Guy Colonna, NFPA division manager, says that just because the facilities do not experience any explosions, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any risks present.

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In contrast, companies should demonstrate pro-activeness and voluntarily protect their facilities from any potential hazards. Simple measures, such as conducting regular dust inspections, using proper dust collection systems, and controlling smoking, can go a long way in promoting safer working conditions.

Accidents can easily happen from the accumulation of combustible dust. This calls for the responsibility of industrial facilities to keep their workplaces safe and free of combustible dust.