5 Things You Didn’t Know About Combustible Dust

describe the image

When you think of combustible materials, do you think of aluminum or iron? When in a finely divided form, these materials along with many others can burn rapidly. These are combustible dusts. When given the right conditions, these materials can be explosible and dangerous causing death, injuries and destruction of property.   

Here are some things you may not know about combustible dust.  

1. It’s Very Dangerous

3 workers were killed in a 2010 titanium dust explosion in West Virginia, and 14 workers were killed in a 2008 sugar dust explosion in Georgia. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that led to the deaths of 119 workers, injured 718, and extensively damaged numerous industrial facilities.  

2. It’s Prevalent Across Industries

Combustible dust is a danger across industries. It’s commonly found in everything from sugar and spice factories to facilities that manufacture furniture, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics and metals.  

3. It’s Preventable

In order for a combustible dust to combust, it needs to first, exist, second be exposed to heat and third be exposed to an oxidizer. According to Safety and Health magazine the other two qualities needed are “dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration” and “confinement of the dust cloud”.

To prevent an explosion you can take steps as simple as using proper dust collection tactics and inspecting regularly for dust residue. You should limit ignition sources and if ignition sources must be present, use cleaning practices that don’t generate dust clouds.  

4. There’s No Specific Rule For It. Yet.

OSHA started the rulemaking process for general industry for combustible dusts in 2009.  Though there are no rules on it specifically right now, there most likely will be in the near future.    

5. You Can Be Cited For Not Taking Proper Precautions

Although there may not be a single regulation, there are numerous regulations that can be used by an OSHA inspector during a site review. If you have combustible dust and are not taking proper precautions, an OSHA inspector could cite you based on any of the following regulations.

  • 29 CFR 1910.122 – Housekeeping

  • 29 CFR 1910.138 – Emergency Action Plan

  • 29 CFR 1910.94 – Ventilation

  • 29 CFR 1910.122 – Housekeeping

  • 29 CFR 1910.146 – Confined Spaces

  • 29 CFR 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication

Each facility should complete a comprehensive review of their site to avoid these as well as other dangers.

For more information on combustible dust and other OSHA compliance in general, check out our roundtable itinerary.