Special Topics in Safety Management

How to Control Combustible Dust Hazards

Controlling combustible dust hazards is essential for preventing catastrophic accidents, and control begins with assessment and training.

OSHA says that facilities that may have combustible dust hazards should carefully identify the following in order to assess their potential for dust explosions:

  • Materials that can be combustible when finely divided
  • Processes which use, consume, or produce combustible dusts
  • Open areas where combustible dusts may build up
  • Hidden areas where combustible dusts may accumulate
  • Means by which dust may be dispersed in the air
  • Potential ignition sources

Other Hazard Analysis Considerations

The amount of dust accumulation necessary to cause an explosive concentration can vary greatly. This is because there are so many variables—the particle size of the dust, the method of dispersion, ventilation system modes, air currents, physical barriers, and the volume of the area in which the dust cloud exists or may exist.

As a result, simple rules of thumb regarding accumulation (such as writing in the dust or visibility in a dust cloud) can be subjective and misleading. Your hazard analysis should therefore be tailored to the specific circumstances in your facility and the full range of variables affecting the hazard.

Many locations need to be considered in an assessment. One obvious place for a dust explosion to initiate is where dust is concentrated. In equipment such as dust collectors, a combustible mixture could be present whenever the equipment is operating.


Combustible dust accidents are often catastrophic. Don’t allow your facility to be at risk. BLR’s upcoming live webinar on combustible dust will help you ensure a safe workplace. Click here for details.


Other locations to consider are those where dust can settle, both in occupied areas and in hidden concealed spaces. A thorough analysis will consider all possible scenarios in which dust can be disbursed, both in the normal process and potential failure modes.

Training

Training to prevent accidents is another key aspect of combustible dust management. Both employees and management personnel need to be trained.

Employees. Workers are the first line of defense in preventing and mitigating fires and explosions. If the people closest to the source of the hazard are trained to recognize and prevent hazards associated with combustible dust in the plant, they can be instrumental in recognizing unsafe conditions, taking preventative action, and/or alerting management. While OSHA standards require training for certain employees, all employees should be trained in safe work practices applicable to their job tasks, as well as on the overall plant programs for dust control and ignition source control. They should be trained before they start work, periodically to refresh their knowledge, when reassigned, and when hazards or processes change.

Management. A qualified team of managers should be responsible for conducting a facility analysis (or for having one done by qualified outside persons) prior to the introduction of a hazard and for developing a prevention and protection scheme tailored to their operation. Supervisors and managers should be aware of and support the plant dust and ignition control programs. Their training should include identifying how they can encourage the reporting of unsafe practices and facilitate abatement actions.


Join us on July 15 for an in-depth webinar on combustible dust. Our presenter will explain precisely how to ensure an effective combustible dust management and control program. Learn More


Combustible Dust Management and Control

When you have a comprehensive combustible dust management and control program in place you’re in a far better position to reduce the risk of:

  • Serious, or often potentially fatal, injuries to your employees
  • Significant damage to your company’s assets

Not to mention that you can minimize the likelihood of winding up in the headlines for a catastrophe related to a combustible dust explosion, fire, or other hazard.

It is important—in fact critical—that safety managers responsible for facilities where combustible dust hazards exist to take a close look and discern whether all of the necessary components of a successful dust management and control program are in place.

It’s also important to note that OSHA has reissued the directive on the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program to increase its enforcement activities. Also, OSHA is currently working on a comprehensive combustible dust standard that will in all likelihood rely heavily on standards issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which underwent significant revisions in 2013.

On July 15, BLR will present an in-depth webinar that will explain precisely what safety managers responsible for facilities where combustible dust hazards exist should be taking a close look at to determine if all of the necessary components of a combustible dust management and control program are in place and in proper working order.

You and your colleagues will learn:

  • The key OSHA regulations applicable to combustible dust hazards
  • A review of recent combustible dust incidents
  • OSHA’s recent responses to combustible dust events
  • How to identify potential combustible dust hazards
  • The typical elements of a combustible dust explosion—including the essential warning signs to watch for
  • The typical combustible dust environments likely to cause deflagrations, fires, explosions, or employee exposures in industries such as agriculture, chemicals, textiles, paper products, and metal processing
  • How to perform a combustible dust hazard assessment that will identify combustible dust issues
  • Successful approaches for evaluating and prioritizing combustible dust issues identified during your dust-hazard assessment
  • Proven strategies for effectively controlling, managing, and eliminating combustible dust hazards
  • How to identify and evaluate available resources to help develop and implement and effective and comprehensive combustible dust management plan

About Your Speaker

Gary Visscher is an attorney with extensive experience in government and in labor/employment and health and safety law and policy. Since December 2009, Mr. Visscher has been Of Counsel for the Law Office of Adele Abrams, P.C., a Maryland-based law practice with a focus on labor and employment law and a national practice in workplace safety (OSHA and MSHA) compliance, regulation and enforcement.

Prior to entering private law practice, Attorney Visscher served in several senior level, health and safety-related positions in the federal government, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of OSHA and appointments to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. He also served as workplace policy counsel for the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1989 to1999 and as Vice President of Employee Relations for the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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