The combustive power of airborne particles, like dust, is astounding. Explosions of combustible dust can potentially destroy an entire factory. As the 2008 Imperial Sugar refinery catastrophe demonstrated, dust explosions usually follow a similar pattern – a small blast disperses accumulated dust into a cloud, igniting and fueling a powerful chain of secondary explosions. This is why Explosion-Proof Vacuums matter.
So, what can we learn from accidents like this? If you remove accumulated dust and debris, it can’t become airborne, drastically reducing the risk of explosions.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States defines combustible dust as “a solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape, or chemical composition, which presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations. [i]
The Implementation of the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program
Since 2008, the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) has focused on how workplaces create or handle combustible dust. Following a 25-year study by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board that identified 281 explosive dust incidents that resulted in 119 worker deaths and 718 injuries, in response, OSHA launched the Combustible Dust NEP. As a result of the NEP’s aggressive inspection campaign, more than 30,000 facilities in 70 different industries were considered “at-risk.” These aggressive standards for combustible dust beg the question – is your plant taking all the precautions to keep safe and pass inspection?
DID YOU KNOW?
- According to OSHA, in the year after the NEP was put in place, federal inspectors found over 4900 infractions during combustible dust inspections.
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TAKE THIS SHORT OSHA QUIZ.
ONLY 100% CORRECT PASSES.[ii]
- Does the facility have separator devices to remove foreign materials capable of igniting combustible dust?
- Are the dust-containing systems (ducts and dust collectors) designed, so that fugitive dust cannot accumulate in the work area?
- Does the dust collector system have spark detection and explosion/deflagration suppression systems? (There are other alternative measures.)
- Are all components of the dust collection system constructed of noncombustible materials?
Why does combustible dust collection matter?
To reduce explosive risks, industries that create industrial dust (aka process dust) greatly benefit from finding the proper explosion-proof vacuum during the manufacturing or production process. In a manufacturing process that includes cutting, drilling, grinding, welding, and sawing, tiny particles are generated; when these particles are not adequately filtered and enclosed, they can be highly hazardous for employees and the manufacturing plant itself.
Between 2006 and 2017, 111 incidents of combustible dust caused 66 worker deaths and 337 injuries, according to data collected by the Chemical Safety Board. In many of these incidents, catastrophes occurred during secondary dust explosions. Even if the primary blast is small, it can disrupt your manufacturing plant, which can stir up more dust, which can cause a deadly second dust explosion. What can you do to prevent this? This type of accident can be prevented by implementing a cleaning program that removes dust accumulation using an explosion-proof vacuum. For vacuuming in these hazardous environments or collecting dangerous materials such as paint chippings or fine powder within a facility, an industrial vacuum must be certified for use in Class I, Class II, or Class III by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA recommends the Three C’s for fuel and dust fire avoidance:
- Capture dust before it escapes into a work area using adequately designed, installed, approved, and maintained dust collection systems.
- Contain dust within the equipment, systems, or rooms built and operated to handle combustible dust safely.
- Clean work areas, overhead surfaces, and concealed spaces frequently and thoroughly using safe housekeeping methods to remove combustible dust not captured or contained.
So, how do you choose the correct explosion-proof vacuum for your facility? One recommended approach is to work with your safety director and then match the debris type to the appropriate NEC hazardous class. Then you can research solutions matching those classes.
Understanding NEC Hazardous Classes
Understanding an area’s explosion and fire risk is essential for facility maintenance personnel when selecting industrial explosion-proof vacuum cleaners or other power tools. To help with the proper electrical equipment selection, NEC Chapter 5, Articles 500-506, use the class/division/group system to indicate the different risk levels. Some also use a zone/group system based on Articles 505 & 506 of the NEC and developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission. Understanding the NEC classes can be challenging, so Goodway has put together a brief guide to NEC classes to make it easier.
[i] Combustible Dust: OSH Answers. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/combustible_dust.html
[ii] Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program | Occupational …. https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-03-00-006
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- View our line of Explosion-Proof Vacuums
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