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Quick Facts About Combustible Dust Fire Hazards

Posted on July 27, 2016

This article is Part 1 of our “Quick Facts About Fire Hazards” series. Stay tuned for posts on hot work, flammable liquids and gases, equipment and machinery, and electrical hazards.

We put out a ton of content about combustible dust, and we know not everyone has the time to dig into the details. But understanding this hazard is essential for preventing its consequences.

So, if you’re the type who prefers your content bite-sized, here are some quick facts about combustible dust fire hazards.

What is combustible dust?

Combustible dust is any fine material that can catch fire and explode when mixed with air.

Where is combustible dust found?

Combustible dust can exist in nearly any type of industrial processing facility, from food processing and woodworking to metalworking and chemical plants. If you go to work in any type of production facility, chances are you’re at risk of a combustible dust hazard.

How do combustible dust fires and explosions happen?

A dust explosion is made up of 5 key elements, called the Dust Explosion Pentagon:

  • Oxygen in the air
  • Ignition
  • Combustible dust
  • Dispersion of dust particles
  • Confinement of dust cloud

There are typically two parts to a combustible dust explosion:

  • Primary explosion. In this phase, airborne dust in a confined space meets a heat source, and BAM! This not only causes an explosion, but also disrupts additional dust that may have settled on surfaces throughout the area.
  • Secondary explosion. This phase is where the real problems occur. The additional dust that was stirred up by the primary explosion now ignites in an even bigger explosion. In extreme cases, this secondary explosion can take down entire buildings.

How do you prevent combustible dust fires?

Combustible dust incidents are entirely preventable. The key is to disrupt the Dust Explosion Pentagon. You can do this most effectively by removing the combustible dust from your facility via regular housekeeping. No fuel, no fire.

This is obviously just a brief overview of a very significant problem. Check out our article 5 Major Causes of Industrial Fires and Explosions for a more in-depth look at combustible dust and other fire hazards that put your facility at risk.