Industrial Division

Combustible Dust Testing & Remediation Questions & Answers

Combustible Dust

What is combustible dust?

The OSHA NEP defines combustible dust as "particulate solid that presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations, regardless of particle size or shape."

Most solid organic materials as well as many metals and some nonmetallic inorganic materials, will burn or explode if finely divided and dispersed in sufficient concentrations.

Tiny particals and dust are byproducts of the manufacturing process, and a large-scale explosion can be triggered by a thin layer of dust and small spark. In fact, according to NFPA 654 "As little as 1/32 of an inch of organic dust over 5 percent of a room's surface area presents a significant explosion hazard."

worker using a liftWhat are the risks of combustible dust?

In February 2008, dust accumulation in production areas caused a sudden explosion at the Imperial Sugar facility in Savannah Georgia. The explosion was an international news story, resulting in the fatalities of 14 workers, hundreds of injuries, and nearly $8 million in OHSA fines.

Although higher-profile than many combustible dust explosions, the incident at Imperial Sugar was by no means unique. According to a November 2006 Chemical Safety Hazard Investigation Board study, there have been nearly 450 combustible dust fires and explosions in the U.S. in the past 25 years -- resulting in nearly 800 injuries and more than 130 deaths.

What industries are most affected by combustible dust?

Because combustible dust is generated by manufacturing such a wide range of materials, businesses in many industries may require the protection of remediation services. That includes:

  • Wood Products
  • Food Products
  • Metals Products
  • Chemical Industries
  • Rubber/Plastic Products
  • Primary Metal Products
  • Furniture Manufacturing
  • Electric/Sanitary Services
  • Transportation Equipment
  • Durable Goods
  • Paper Products
  • Textile Mills
Hover over the chart to see the represented industries.
What are the regulatory implications of combustible dust incidents?

From 2008 to 2012, the United States Chemical Safety Board documented 50 combustible dust accidents that led to 161 worker injuries and 29 fatalities. That increase in combustible dustrelated incidents has resulted in heightened scrutiny from federal regulatory agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), to reduce manufacturing dust accumulation that leads to fires. Recently enacted and proposed combustible dust regulation includes:

  • NFPA 654 - Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
  • NFPA 664 - Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities
  • NFPA 61 - Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities
  • NFPA 484 - Standard for Combustible Metals
  • NFPA 655 - Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions
  • OSHA workplace standards 1910.22 (housekeeping), 1910.72 (grain handling), and the general duty clause

In addition, the OSHA published advanced notice of combustible dust rulemaking in October 2009.

What are the costs of non-compliance?
In October 2007, the OSHA initiated its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) to inspect facilities that generate or handle combustible dust. Of the 1,097 facilities inspected, the NEP found over 4,900 violations - 74% of which were reported to be "serious". Only 22% of the facilities inspected by the NEP were found to be in compliance with OHSA standards for combustible dust. In addition, a serious violation carried an average cost of $1,233 per violation.
What are your responsibilities as an operator of a manufacturing facility?
It is up to you - the manufacturer - to know the composition of materials that are processed at your facility, the risk level of combustible dust fires and explosions, and all applicable laws. Material Safety Data Sheets are a starting point, but most do not address materials explosivity. To prevent costly fines from non-compliance with state and federal laws and - most importantly - risks to your employees' safety, the best option available is to have your manufacturing dust tested to asses explosivity.
How can Koorsen Environmental Services help meet your combustible dust needs?

You can count on the specialists at Koorsen Environmental Services to develop a testing, cleaning, and remediation program that removes combustible dust from your manufacturing facility and keeps you fully compliant with federal and state regulations.

Our vacuum systems fulfill the requirements of the ATEX Zone 22 directive 1999/92 ATEX 137. Our systems are equipped with steel containers, earth-bonded parts and antistatic accessories. All equipment used is fully bonded and grounded. For use with conductive material, IP65 standard is valid.

In addition, all of our technicians are trained and bonded to comply with OHSA safety standards, and we maintain compliance with national and local safety codes and jurisdictions.

Our services not only help manufacturers comply with federal and state safety standards, they also help to maintain the value of your facility and its operating system and equipment.

Koorsen Environmental Services866-339-9076