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  • Writer's pictureFahad Gohar

#Combustible #Dust: An Insidious Hazard

According to OSHA any combustible material can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form. If such a dust is suspended in air in the right concentration, under certain conditions, it can become explosive. Even materials that do not burn in larger pieces (such as aluminum or iron), given the proper conditions, can be explosive in dust form.

The force from such an explosion can cause employee deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings

A wide variety of materials that can be explosive in dust form exist in many industries. Examples of these materials include: food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc). These materials are used in a wide range of industries and processes, such as agriculture, chemical manufacturing, pharmaceutical production, furniture, textiles, fossil fuel power generation, recycling operations, and metal working and processing which includes additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

OSHA Recommendation:

Precautions for Firefighters to Prevent Dust Explosions

  • Be prepared for an emergency incident

  • Conduct thorough pre-incident planning.

  • Work closely with facility safety personnel.

  • Have emergency contact information for each facility.

  • Identify and learn about explosion protection devices and systems.

  • Train regularly with facility personnel.

  • Check fire hose thread compatibility.

  • Review OSHA’s booklet Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust (OSHA 3644).

  • Draft an incident action plan.

Take precautions to prevent or mitigate dust explosions

  • Fire attack: Choose defensive mode when warranted.

  • Extinguishing agent: Select agent compatible with burning or nearby material.

  • Hose streams: Use low-pressure medium fog streams to avoid dust clouds.

  • Fire extinguishers: Apply agent gently to avoid dust clouds.

  • Access and ventilation: Consider proper timing before introducing oxygen.

  • Power shutdown: Coordinate equipment shutdown with facility personnel.

  • Tools and equipment: Do not introduce ignition sources.


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