In Fire Alarms, Fire Extinguishers, Fire Safety

Really, can dust kill you?  You bet it can! At least 900 workers have been killed or injured in dust fires or explosions since 1980.  When dust forms a cloud in a confined space and touches an ignition source a fire or explosion can occur.  A dust explosion can produce extreme air pressure that can blow out walls and destroy structures.

Types of Dust Explosions

  • Primary is the first explosion. It occurs when there is dust suspension in a confined space that is ignited and explodes.
  • Secondary occurs from the other dust that is dislodged from the primary explosion. When this dust becomes airborne, it also ignites.  The secondary dust explosion is often more destructive than the primary one.


Required Elements for a Dust Explosion

  1. Fuel = combustible dust
  2. Oxygen in air
  3. Ignition Source = electrostatic discharge, an electric current arc, a glowing ember, a hot surface, welding slag, frictional heat or flame
  4. Dispersion of dust particles in the right concentration
  5. Confinement of the dust cloud which allows for pressure buildup

Factors Needed for the Ignition of a Dust Explosion

  1. The dust must be combustible and release enough energy when it burns to sustain the fire
  2. The dust particle size must be capable of spreading the fire
  3. The dust must be capable of suspending in the air
  4. The concentration of the dust suspension must be within the explosive range
  5. An ignition source must be in contact with the dust suspension
  6. Sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere to support and sustain the explosion
  7. There is an enclosure or form of confinement that allows pressure to build

Protection Techniques

  • Good housekeeping
  • Designing and maintaining equipment to prevent dust leaks
  • Using dust collectors
  • Eliminating flat surfaces where dust can accumulate
  • Sealing hard-to-clean areas
  • Installing a spark detection and extinguishing system

Do you manufacture, have processes or use any materials that can create dust?  Even small amounts of accumulated dust can cause catastrophic damage from fires and explosions.    Any workplace that generates dust is potentially at risk.  If this happens, be ready to minimize the damage.  Contact Fire Control Systems.  We can help.


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