“It’s just _______ dust, it’s not combustible”
We get told this repeatedly, only to have to let these people know that in fact, the dust they thought was harmless is actually very combustible and is creating a hazard.
So what types of dust are combustible? The most obvious one that most people are aware of being combustible dust is wood dust- usually just called saw dust. Lumber mills, furniture manufacturers, or other facilities that process wood create huge amounts of this highly explosive dust.
Another obvious type of combustible dust is textile dust such as cotton and nylon. Facilities that manufacture clothes or other textiles produce this lightweight but highly combustible dust.
What types of combustible dust are less obvious?
One that had severe consequences was the food processing industry. In 2008 an explosion at the Imperial Sugar Refinery fatally injured 14 workers, and the explosion was determined to be caused by sugar dust. Sugar as well as cellulose, powdered milk, flour, starch, cocoa, and maltodextrin, among others, are combustible. Grain processing facilities are also particularly susceptible since they focus on drying out the grain, which creates large amounts of dry airborn dust- a major factor in a dust explosion hazard.
Plastics, rubbers, and resins are also highly combustible type of dust. These might seem like they wouldn’t be, or the dust would just melt without being combustible, but when mixed with the air to create a dust cloud these finely ground particles can become a dust explosion hazard. Any company that produces products with plastic, rubber, or resin is at risk. This can include tire manufacturers, plastic bottle and container plants, chemical manufacturers, recycling facilities, or any sort of household goods producer.
The category that most people are amazed to find out is a type of combustible dust is metals. Metals typically don’t even burn as a solid, so it’s hard to believe that when ground up they become an explosion risk. Aluminum, iron, bronze, zinc and magnesium are all metals that become a combustion risk when found as dust. Yet, this is probably the type of dust that most people ignore and don’t consider dangerous. In 2003 the Hayes Lemmerz factory exploded from accumulated aluminum dust from the car wheels the plant manufactured.
Many times the greatest danger is the one that goes unnoticed, and combustible dust hazards are a severe danger that is often ignored. Call a Hughes professional at 888-845-3952 or contact us at hughesenv.com to set up a consultation and dust testing.