What to Know About Combustible Dust Explosions in the Workplace | Scott Goodwin Law

What to Know About Combustible Dust Explosions in the Workplace

by / Wednesday, 15 May 2024 / Published in Workplace Woes
Flames from an explosion seen against a blue sky.

In some situations, a material can become combustible when it exists in the form of very fine particles that are suspended in the air under certain conditions. This is known as combustible dust and it’s a very common safety hazard in a wide range of industries, including agriculture, furniture manufacturing, food processing, metalworking, textile manufacturing, and power generation, just to name a few. Sometimes, combustible dust can involve materials that otherwise wouldn’t be considered combustible if it existed as a larger piece of matter, such as aluminum.

Combustible dust typically involves particles that are less than 420 microns in diameter. These dust particles can become airborne through a wide range of actions, including grinding, polishing, transportation, mixing, and cutting. When these particles reach a certain degree of concentration in the air, they can combust if exposed to an ignition source. How combustible a type of dust is can depend on a few different factors, such as the moisture content of the dust. If the dust has a low level of moisture, it can be more prone to combustion than dust with a higher level of moisture. 

Over the years, there have been many notable cases of combustible dust explosions in workplaces that have destroyed buildings and caused fatal injuries to those working inside. Even a small spark can be all it takes to cause a very dangerous explosion. In addition to the risk of explosions, exposure to dust in the air can potentially cause serious health problems for people working in that environment, such as respiratory illnesses, eye irritation, and skin irritation. 

Since combustible dust is a hazard that exists in many different industries, the types of materials that can create combustible dust can significantly vary depending on the type of workplace involved. For example, common products that can be hazardous for businesses in agriculture or food processing can include various types of flour, sugar, powdered spices/seasonings, starches, and grain dust. On the other hand, in a facility that does plastic processing, sources of combustible dust could include epoxy resins, PVC compounds, and polypropylene. 

Employers have many options to help prevent the risk of combustible dust in the workplace. Proper ventilation and implementing dust collection systems and using other dust management measures to prevent the accumulation of dust are very important. Employers can also take steps to eliminate potential sources of ignition and or utilize explosion suppression systems. Employees should also be trained in best practices to reduce the hazards of combustible dust.

Contact a Michigan Workplace Injury Lawyer

If you were injured on the job, it’s important to contact a workplace injury lawyer for help as soon as possible for help with your workers compensation claim. Getting help from a lawyer as early as possible helps make sure your claim is handled correctly so that you can get all of the compensation you are entitled to. At Scott Goodwin Law, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer experienced in helping people who have been in your shoes. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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