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Combustible Dusts

What is a combustible dust?

  • There are a number of manufacturing processes that produce very small fine particles, such as grinding, sanding, cutting, drilling, and turning.  If any of the particles produced can burn, chances are it is a combustible dust. 
  • OSHA defines a combustible dust as … A combustible particulate solid that presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations, regardless of particle size or shape.

How do I know if I have a combustible dust?

  • There is historical data available for most materials and processes to give you a good baseline evaluation of your situation.  However the best option and the only way to know for sure is to have the dust tested to verify the material properties.
  • Failure to have proper documentation on how hazardous a dust may be is one of the most common oversights.  There are a number of laboratories that offer low cost tests to determine whether a dust is combustible or not.
  • Glacier Technology can help put you in contact with testing facilities capable of analyzing your dust.

What are the relevant standards and codes regarding combustible dust and who enforces them?

  • The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) sets standards and codes.  There are a half dozen or so standards relating to prevention of fire and dust explosions from the manufacturing processing and handling of dusts.   More information on specific codes can be found on the NFPA standards at a glance page.
  • OSHA enforces the standards published by the NFPA under their General Duty Clause.  Two of the most common violations are accumulation of combustible dust in workplaces and failure to perform a Process Hazard Analysis and Risk Assessment.

What should my next step be?

  • Contacting Glacier Technology for an onsite visit is a great first step.  During the visit we will discuss dust control measures, explosion prevention measures, and explosion protection measures.
  • Glacier Technology can help examine current dust collection systems to help determine if they are in compliance with the most recent NFPA standards.  Existing collection systems are not grandfathered in under previous standard and do not have any retroactive immunity.  They must be brought into compliance with current standards and the price of keeping them in compliance is eternal vigilance.  See protection accessories for more information.