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Dust Explosions: Reducing the Risk

Accurate figures for dust explosions for recent years can be difficult to track down, however, for the period between the years 2017 and 2020 there were at least 54 fatalities and 483 injuries around the world that were caused by or related to dust explosions.

What Causes a Dust Explosion?

Dust explosions can occur when 5 key conditions are present:

  • A Combustible dust, such as flour, coal, wood, grain, synthetic organic chemicals and certain metals

  • A confined space, such as a hopper, silo or filter

  • Movement in order to generate a cloud of dust

  • Oxygen

  • A spark or heat to act as a source of ignition

While each of these conditions may be present in an industrial facility, it is together that they cause an explosion. Note that even if missing a confined space, an explosion may still be triggered if the remaining 4 elements exist simultaneously.

Risk Management

Risk management begins with the assessment and evaluation of the risk of dust explosion.

A few of the areas that should be considered when carrying out this process are:

  • Are the dusts generated within the facility explosive or combustible?

  • Is it possible for dust clouds to form?

  • Where can these dust clouds form?

  • Are there any potential sources of ignition?

  • The likelihood of a dust explosion and the potential consequences?

  • Who is at risk if an explosion were to occur?

  • Is it possible for the risk of explosion to be prevented? If it cannot be prevented, how can the risk of explosion be mitigated and the workforce protected?

After detailed risk assessments have been completed, measures can be carried out to prevent or mitigate the risk as well as ensuring effective monitoring of any systems and controls.

Reducing the Risk of a Dust Explosion

Most dust explosions originate inside the process plant itself, because of this, control measures are mostly focused on the conditions inside the dust handling system.

The four areas that require the most focus are:

  • Control of the formation of dust clouds

  • Ensure that dusts are kept separated from any potential sources of ignition

  • Prevention of explosive atmospheres

  • Monitoring and control of the performance of the plant

In most situations, the plant reviewed will be the extraction system itself. This is why it is valuable to seek help and advice from extraction specialists such as RCS.

RCS's experienced team are experts in the design and development of ventilation systems for a variety of industrial processes, which places us in the perfect position to identify the risk of dust explosions for your business and put in place systems necessary to manage them.

RCS offer a range of services which encompass the entire spectrum of LEV requirements. Services can be purchased individually or as part of a Turn-key solutions package. Call us on +44(0)1563 546807 or click here to contact us for more information.


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