Reducing the Risk of Dust Explosions

September 23, 2015

It is difficult to get accurate figures for the total number of dust explosions that have occurred in recent years, however, between 2008 and 2012 there were at least 29 fatalities and 161 injuries around the world that can be attributed to this type of event as well as a number of more recent high profile explosions.

What Causes Dust to Explode?

In order for a dust explosion to occur there are 5 key elements that need to be in place:

  • Combustible dust – examples include sugar, coal, wood, grain, certain metals and many synthetic organic chemicals
  • Air / Oxygen
  • An ignition source (heat or a spark)
  • A confined space – for example, dust being stored or collected inside a hopper, silo or filter
  • Movement – to create a dust cloud

Each of these factors may exist in an industrial facility but they need to be present together to create an explosion.  It is important to note, however, that even without the confinement of the dust particles if the other 4 elements are in place simultaneously an explosion can still take occur.

Dust Explosion Risk Management within the UK

In the UK there are a number of different regulations that cover the identification, evaluation, prevention and/or mitigation of Dust Explosion risks and further information is available in this HSE Guide.

As with the US equivalent, the first step in the process is the assessment and evaluation of the risk.

The following are just a few of the areas that should be considered during this stage of the process:

  • Is the dust created within the facility capable of exploding?
  • Can dense dust clouds form and if so where?
  • What sources are there that could potentially ignite the dust?
  • What is the likelihood of a dust explosion happening and the consequences if it did?
  • Who would be at risk in the event of an explosion?
  • Can the risk of the explosion be prevented? If not what can be done to minimise the risk and protect the workforce?

Once detailed risk assessments have been completed action can be taken to prevent or mitigate the risk as well as ensuring effective monitoring of any systems and controls.

Help and Advice to reduce the Dust Explosion Risk from Vent-Tech

The majority of dust explosions are created inside the process plant itself and as such control measures generally focus on the conditions inside the dust handling system.  The key areas that need focus can be grouped together into 4 areas:

  • Controlling the formation of a dust cloud
  • Preventing the creation of an explosive atmosphere
  • Ensuring that any potential sources of ignition are kept away from the dust
  • Monitoring and controlling plant performance

The plant being reviewed in many cases will be the dust extraction system itself which is where advice and help from a specialist company such as Vent-Tech are invaluable.

Our expertise in the design and development of industrial ventilation systems means we are ideally placed to work with the business to identify the risk of dust explosion and put in place the necessary systems and processes to manage them.

Our team can specifically provide advice and guidance in the following areas:

  • Ensuring that the extraction system effectively catches all of the dust and thereby prevents large dust deposits from building up.
  • Checking the design of an existing system to ensure that the filter can handle explosive dust particles (where specialist explosion vents are needed).
  • The location and siting of the ventilation system to ensure minimum impact if an explosion did take place.
  • Controls and measurement of the system to ensure that it is working correctly and to identify areas such as blocked filters, inadequate fan performance so that remedial action is taken.
  • Maintenance and cleaning out of dust deposits and gaining access to empty out a dust filter without creating a potentially dangerous dust cloud.

To find out more about how our team could help, contact us on 01179 712 163 or complete our FREE enquiry form