Don’t Get Caught In Exploding Dust

Dust explosions can occur in many different types of workplaces, and in many different industries, so it’s important to be aware of what dusts are combustible, and exercise appropriate safety measure to ensure that you don’t get caught in a dust explosion.

How Is Dust Created?

Dust can be created when materials are transported, handled, processed, polished, ground, or shaped.  They can also be created by abrasive blasting, cutting, crusting, mixing, sifting, or screening dry materials.  Wet materials can also leave behind dry residue that can turn to dust.

What Types Of Materials Can Become Exploding Dust?

  • Wood
  • Textiles
  • Rubber
  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Agricultural Products
  • Metals
  • Chemical Dusts
  • Plastics

This is just a short list.  There are a lot more materials that can become combustible in the right situations.  US OSHA has provided a post with more examples that you can view here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/combustibledustposter.pdf

How Do Dust Explosions Happen?

Normal fires just require three elements to burn: Fuel, Oxygen, Ignition Source (“Fire Triangle”).  Dust fires need an additional two elements: dispersion of dust particles in the right concentration, and confinement of the dust cloud.  This is known as the “Dust Pentagram”

Dust Explosion Pentagon

Figure 1 shows the dust explosion pentagon. Figure from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

How Can You Prevent Dust Explosions?

Prevention starts with identifying factors that can contribute to an explosion.  OSHA recommends a thorough hazard assessment of:

  • All materials handled
  • All operations conducted, including by-products
  • All spaces (including hidden ones); and
  • All potential ignition sources

To find out more about what Combustible Dust Explosions are, how to avoid them, and what the OSHA requirements are, you can view the OSHA Fact Sheet on Combustible Dust Explosions at:  https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/OSHAcombustibledust.pdf