Why should you consider dust build up?

Combustible dusts are fine particles that present an explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions. A dust explosion can cause catastrophic loss of life, injuries, and destruction of buildings. 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. More recently, additional incidents have occurred. On February 7, 2008, a sugar dust explosion and subsequent fire at a sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, caused 14 deaths and left many other workers seriously injured with severe burns.

 OSHA requires that all industrial facilities have a housekeeping plan in place to address combustible dust build up on all surfaces.  OSHA requires that build up be kept to less than 1/32 of an inch on all overhead piping, beams, rafters, and duct work.  The housekeeping program must be enforced, and very specific procedures are required to collect the fugitive combustible dust.  OSHA estimates that well over 50% of industrial facilities are in violation of guidelines as they pertain to combustible dust. 

What should you do to be safe and in OSHA compliance?

The two most common violations of the OSHA Combustible Dust Guidelines are lack of any housekeeping program and unapproved cleaning procedures.  By far the most common unapproved housekeeping practice is what is commonly referred to as a “blow down” being performed periodically to remove build up from overhead surfaces.  This involves the use of compressed to literally blow dust and foreign debris from surfaces down to the ground where it can be swept up and collected.  This is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to rid surfaces of fugitive combustible dust.  The problem with this practice is simple: it is dangerous and in direct violation of the combustible dust standards.  Dust becomes highly combustible when a number of factors take place.  The most important factor is agitation of the particles, which creates friction.  The use of compressed air creates maximum agitation of the dust, therefore increasing the combustibility and the hazard.  This puts your facility at risk not only for an accident, but also for significant OSHA fines.

In order to safely eliminate fugitive combustible dust, the dust must be collected in a way that does not create “dust clouds” or excessive agitation.  The use of approved vacuuming equipment is by far the safest and most efficient way to perform this task.  Vacuuming with approved equipment effectively captures dust particles without creating a safety hazard.  The dust can then be disposed of in a safe and proper manner.  FCS has various types of systems, including explosion proof industrial vacuums, to address each situation.