The Silent Threat What Should You Know About Combustible Dust?

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Downdraft benches

Believe it or not, dust can explode. Now, that doesn’t mean your home is going to light up like the Fourth of July just because you didn’t swiffer last weekend, but it does mean that if you work in an industrial setting where boring, grinding, welding, or cutting are performed, the facility may be jeopardized. Here’s what you should know.

How Does Dust Explode? – Every fire needs three basic elements: the fuel, the heat, and an oxidizer. In the event of a combustible dust incident, the dust is the fuel, the ignition source is the heat, and the air is the oxidizer. However, in order to explode, combustible dust also needs to have its dust particles dispersed in sufficient quantity and concentration, and a confinement of the dust cloud.

What Sort of Dust Is Combustible? – The Occupational Safety and Health administration identifies over 130 products or materials that pose a threat for combustible dust explosions, many of which are more common than you might think, while some — not so much. Amongst the different sorts of dust that can explode, there are agricultural products and dusts, carbonaceous dusts, chemical dusts, metal dusts, and plastic dusts.

Are These Events Common? – No, combustible events are not common, but that doesn’t mean they’re rare, either. Between 1980 and 2005, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) identified a jaw dropping 281 combustible dust incidents, which led to the deaths of 119 workers, hurt another 718, and did extensive damage to numerous industrial facilities. These events are not small, either. In 2010, titanium dust caused an explosion that took the lives of three workers.

In order to ensure the safety of all, combustible dust collection systems, such as downdraft tables, are necessary pieces of onsite equipment. If you have any questions about the importance of combustible dust collection systems, feel free to share in the comments.

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