Dust Explosion Protection: Five Steps for Safety

Do you work in a facility where combustible dust is present? What are the top five things you would consider to ensure safety from fire, deflagration and dust explosions?

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

In June 1998, the DeBruce Grain elevator, at the time the largest in the world, suffered the tragic consequences of a grain dust explosion. Seven workers were killed and ten more injured. If it can happen to the biggest and the best, it can happen to anyone. Combustible dust poses a serious threat to worker safety and facility operations. Potentially catastrophic fires, deflagration and dust explosions can occur if dust builds up to a sufficient concentration and then comes into contact with a heat source that ignites it. Here are five key considerations to help manage combustible dust safely:

Test - Dust Hazard Analysis

 If dust is present in your facility, you should test it to determine its level of combustibility. A licensed laboratory can carry out the test for you. You should also conduct a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA). This will identify and evaluate the fire, deflagration,and explosion hazards associated with dusts and particulate solids in your facility. By conducting a DHA, you can develop a comprehensive understanding of the risks posed by combustible dust and implement appropriate explosion protection measures. A DHA should be conducted by a qualified person and you should document all the results. The NFPA Standard 652 (due to be consolidated into NFPA Standard 660) provides guidance on the fundamentals of combustible dust.

Comply with Safety Standards for Combustible Dust

Depending on how combustible your dust is, there are a number of safety measures you must follow to comply with industry standards and guidelines. Some of the key regulatory bodies, standards and guidelines are OSHA, the NFPA, CCPS and ASTM. We recommend you consult OSHA and local guidance to identify all the regulations and standards that may apply to your facility and processes.

Prevent Dust Explosions

Deflagrations and explosions are often caused by nothing more than dust accumulation. Prevention is better than cure, and many explosion hazards can be mitigated by good housekeeping and preventive measures. Maintain adequate ventilation, install dust collectors or air handling systems, ensure all equipment is well maintained, conduct routine inspection and cleaning of areas prone to dust build-up, and reduce fugitive dust emissions. This can reduce the likelihood of a dust explosion and minimize the impact if one does occur. By developing and enforcing safe work practices, you can create a culture of safety in your workplace and also reduce the likelihood of a dust explosion.

Explosion Protection

Explosion protection measures include active fire suppression, and passive systems such as explosion panels, flameless vents and isolation valves.

Safety Training

Employee training is a critical component of managing combustible dust safely. All employees should receive training on the hazards of combustible dust, proper handling and storage procedures, emergency response protocols, and the importance of following safe work practices. By providing proper training, you can ensure that employees are knowledgeable about the risks associated with combustible dust and can take appropriate actions to prevent a dust explosion. OsecoElfab offers training on explosion protection in the powder bulk industry, specifically focusing on our area of expertise, explosion panels and flameless vents. Contact your local OE representative for further details.