Why dust combusts
Combustible dust cleaning, also known as explosive dust, is a required preventative maintenance program in manufacturing and production facilities to prevent safety hazards, fires, and explosions.
The first step in understanding the science behind combustible dust is to learn why dust can combust. Like any fire, a combustion explosion begins with three elements – fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. However, what pushes it over the edge are two additional components: 1) the dispersion of particles; and, 2) a confined space.
Fuel: It’s not just wood or coal. Many organic materials and metals can create combustible dust, from sugar and calcium to aluminum and plastic.
Oxygen: The more oxygen in the room, the stronger the explosion can become.
Ignition: Electrostatic electricity, friction, hot surface, arcing, sparks, and more.
Confined Space: A room, building, drop ceiling, or space inside a piece of equipment have more pressure than open spaces and thus can lead to higher energy levels or explosions.
Dispersed Particles: Dispersed means they have more surface area exposed to the elements. A “dust cloud” can explode while settled dust may only burn.
So what can you do?
From reducing ignition opportunities to controlling humidity and creating emergency action plans – facilities can prevent combustible dust accidents from a number of sides. The number one area to make a difference, however, is proper cleaning.
Some areas you and your cleaning vendor should be targeting include:
- High ceilings and surfaces
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC)
- Conveyors and elevator systems
- Fume hoods and dust collectors
- Silos and storage areas