One of the biggest misconceptions we hear today is the idea that if your facility isn’t a hazardous or classified environment, you don’t need an NFPA-compliant vacuum cleaner. In fact, we hear this so often, we made a Myth Busters video about it!
The truth is that if you collect dust in your facility using a vacuum cleaner, that vacuum must meet certain safety standards.
If you have combustible dust in your facility (and if you’re in food, pharma, or most other industries, you do), your vacuum cleaner must comply with NFPA 652, which was released just last year.
What does it mean for a vacuum cleaner to be NFPA-652 compliant?
The standard identifies 7 specific requirements:
- The materials of construction must be conductive, except in a few specific circumstances.
- Hoses must be conductive or static dissipative.
- All conductive components, including wands and attachments, must be bonded and grounded.
- Dust-laden air must not pass through the fan or blower.
- Electrical motors must not be in the dust-laden air stream unless listed for Class II, Division I, locations.
- Paper filter elements aren’t allowed for picking up liquids or wet materials.
- Vacuum cleaners used for metal dusts must meet the requirements of NFPA 484, which is the standard for combustible metals.
Why should you focus on compliance now?
Many manufacturing facilities, particularly in industries like pharma, were built 15 to 20 years ago. That was before we knew as much as we do today about combustible dust and many other workplace hazards. Companies are just now starting to adapt to the new standards to ensure they’re capable of handling and processing materials that create combustible dust particulates.
This leads us to a couple of other major misconceptions.
For example, some companies take the perspective, “Well, we haven’t had an incident thus far, so we’re not at risk.”
The lack of a past incident doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk. In fact, combustible dust is such a rampant problem that, under NFPA 652, you’re required to test your dust for combustibility even if there’s no prior history of your type of dust causing combustible dust incidents.
And a fire or explosion isn’t the only possible consequence. The final misconception we’ll address in this article is the idea that you can’t be fined for combustible dust violations because OSHA doesn’t have a combustible dust standard.
It is true that compliance with NFPA standards is voluntary. However, OSHA relies heavily on the NFPA when developing its own standards. And both courts of appeals and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission have ruled that OSHA’s main housekeeping standard, 1910.22, applies to combustible dust hazards. In addition, OSHA is expected to have its own combustible dust standard by 2018, so now’s the time to start preparing!