Can dust really be that dangerous?
If dust isn't on your list of dangerous things in the workplace, it should be. Dust explosions can wreak havoc on your factory, killing and injuring workers, and destroying machinery. Becoming informed about the properties of your dust is the first step to understanding how it should be collected. Dust testing has always been important, but it is becoming more commonplace through the education of potential hazards and improvements in manufacturing regulations.
|Aftermath of a Dust Explosion at Imperial Sugar, Georgia|
Testing the Explosiveness of Dust
In accordance with ASTM methods, explosibility testing can give you insight into the challenges you will face in order to provide safe and efficient dust, fume, and mist collection. Explosibility testing is available through several companies that specialize in explosion protection services. You can contact such a company directly , or you can commission the testing through your dust collection supplier.
Using your dust sample a lab will start with a screening test to determine whether the dust is inert or explosive. If it is combustible, the lab will conduct further testing on dust cloud explosibility parameters to pinpoint the factors that can lead to an explosion, as well as the potential destructive force an explosion could cause. If your dust is found to be even slightly combustible, you will be required to use explosion venting equipment on your dust collector. The specific results of the testing will enable your dust collection supplier to determine whether you can use a standard explosion vent; or whether the vent size, ducting and related components will need to be specially calculated and modified to ensure regulation compliance.
Testing the Physical Properties of Dust
Identifying other characteristics in dust is important as well. Bench testing dust samples can help determine the filter media you will need to efficiently filter the dust, and can also raise a flag for issues such as clumping, which can be affected by changes in moisture. The abrasiveness of the dust comes into play when designing surfaces the dust will come in contact with inside the collector as well as the venting system. Other tests such as terminal velocity testing pinpoint the air velocity required to lift the dust, which is a critical factor in determining collector and filter size.
For dusts that are prone to cause issues, other specialized tests can be leveraged to indicate precautions.
Compliance with NFPA 68 and other Regulations
Even if you believe your dust to be inert, it still must be tested under NFPA 68. For example, paper dust may be inherently inert - but if a coating or glue is mixed in during processing, it can drastically change the combustibility characteristics of the dust. Explosibility testing is the only way to know for sure, and is therefore the only way to guarantee compliance. You might be surprised by the results when you submit your dust for testing.
Dust Testing Creates a Safer and Healthier Workplace
Dust collection is important to keep factory air clean for workers and to reduce damage to costly machinery, but dust and fumes must be cleaned carefully and safely to mitigate the potential for a dust explosion. Testing your factory dust is an excellent step towards providing a cleaner and safer workplace for your employees - a step that should not be overlooked.