Dust that can kill: Is it in your workplace?
When it comes to health and safety in the workplace there is one common and deadly problem hiding in the corners of industries across the world: Combustible Dust. Combustible dust is “any fine material that has the ability to catch fire and explode when mixed with air.” Source Combustible dust can be formed from a large variety of materials, even items that are not combustible under “regular conditions”.
Combustible dust can be from metal (such as aluminum, bronze, magnesium, zinc, etc.), wood, grain, sugar, flour, rubber, plastic, pharmaceuticals, coal and so much more.
A variety of dust is created when materials are transported, handled, processed, polished, ground, and shaped. Dust is also created by abrasive blasting, cutting, crushing, mixing, sifting or screening dry materials. The buildup of dried residue from the processing of wet materials can also generate dust. Essentially, any workplace that generates dust is potentially at risk. Source
The particles will explode if “[they] are small enough and they’re dispersed in a sufficient concentration within a confined area near an ignition source, which can be as small as a welding spark, or a hot machine motor, or bearing. Even seemingly small amounts of accumulated combustible dust can cause catastrophic damage. Source The United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) emphasizes the danger of combustible dust, and describes the greatest damages, including injuries and fatalities, as often being caused by secondary explosions. A primary incident, a smaller explosion or a fire, causes a vibration through the facility, which then disrupts dust that sits on surfaces that are often overlooked by staff, such as; rafters, beams, tops of equipment, etc. causing a second explosion or a chain reaction of explosions throughout the facility. The NFPA states that a catastrophic explosion can occur with an accumulation of dust covering only 5% of a room’s surface, and only roughly 1/32nd of an inch thick (approximately the width of a dime).
The numbers don't lie, combustible dust continues to play a huge role in the injuries and fatalities suffered in the workplace. It is important for businesses to take the appropriate preventative measures to ensure a combustible dust explosion is not going to happen in their workplace; causing damage to buildings and equipment, injuring employees, or even worse, resulting in death.
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