Dust, particles and fibers floating around in a home or industrial workshop can often be a lot more than just a nuisance or threat to your employees’ health. Dust of various types can easily cause highly destructive dust explosions, as well, and destroy your business in a matter of seconds. And if you’re found negligent (i.e. you know that you have airborne dust and did not have any or the right dust filtration system in place), your insurance may not cover anything.
Wood and other airborne dust is very similar to grain dust, and can ignite in a similar way to grain silo explosions. This can easily happen in a large or small workshop, even if you have vacuums or other collectors in place, simply because of residual dust that is left over or not captured by those vacuums or other units. Dust explosions (deflagration) typically require five conditions to be met for them to occur: 1) combustible dust, 2) dust suspended in the air at a sufficiently high concentration, 3) a confined space 4) oxygen or other oxidant, and 5) any ignition source.
Coal dust, sawdust, and magnesium dust cause a lot of dust explosions, but grain, flour, sugar, even powdered metals like aluminum and titanium can also ignite under the right conditions (above). The problem is that in many workshops, there are almost always two of the main conditions for a dust explosion being met–there’s always oxygen present, dust in the air, and there are multiple ignition sources, from cigarettes to torches, sparks from machines, grinders, etc. And you don’t know exactly when the proper amount of dust is in the air to facilitate an explosion – this is why they occur without warning and seemingly from ‘out of nowhere’.
The best way to prevent a dust explosion is to have source capture dust extractors or air filtration units with HEPA filters in place at the machines where the dust is being produced, but also have the appropriate number of room air filtration units running as well, to clean up the residual dust in the air, and give you the Federal or State OSHA required number of clean air changes per hour (to keep the air clean and safe, and avoid hefty OSHA fines). Many business owners will use a combination of source capture units with industrial cyclone dust collectors attached to the central HVAC system, or several source capture units near the machines, and several portable dust collectors on the floor or hanging from the ceiling.
Regardless of what type of dust you have floating around in your business, it’s just better to not take chances and install the proper combination of source capture, cyclone HVAC based units or portable units to ensure that the air is clean. Without the dust in the air, you pretty much can’t have a dust explosion, and you’ll certainly prevent employee health problems, downtime from illness, OSHA fines, and other unnecessary expenses.
Safeguard the business you’ve worked so hard to build and make sure that dust is being removed regularly. And for a tip, make sure the dust collectors you choose have pre-filters, which stop the larger particles from prematurely clogging the HEPA filters (extends the life of the HEPA filters and saves you money).
Hi, I’m Rex Murphy, owner of Air Purifiers and Cleaners.com. I wrote this article to share some information about dust explosions that can easily occur in home and industrial workshops, and how to prevent them with the proper dust removal systems in place.
We sell the best quality, most affordable portable workshop dust collectors, cyclone dust collection systems, replacement filters and more, all at the cheapest discount prices possible with free shipping every day, due to our low overhead and great relationships with our suppliers.