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Combustible Dusts – Are Your Colleagues Fully Aware Of This Hazard?

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nov dec 17 22Combustible Dusts – Are Your Colleagues Fully Aware Of This Hazard?

In recent years, the UK has not had any major industrial explosions, changes in regulations have had significant success in minimising hazards but one factor that will continue to present perhaps the most significant risk is the human factor! (Read More)


Lack of understanding of hazardous materials and, more importantly, the implications of hazardous zones, can lead to serious injury, or worse.  This became apparent during a recent site survey, an engineer identified a bulk propane store located on a site boundary, with numerous cigarette butts along the boundary fence.  
On the most part, the dangers associated with flammable liquids and gases are now widely known and a good safety culture is observed.  However, the same cannot be said for combustible dusts.  The amount of dust present at many sites handling combustible solids is a clear indication of the lack of knowledge around the hazardous environment that is being created.  
Generation of dust clouds and presence of dust layers is a concern at many sites and housekeeping is not the only issue and should certainly not be the solution to excessive dust levels.  Implementing the principles of ALARP, the first objective should be to prevent dust generation altogether.  This is often overlooked, assuming dust generation is an unavoidable part of the process.  Greater knowledge on bulk handling techniques would allow incorporation of measures to mitigating additional attrition and reduce fines liberation, for example, limiting the amount of turnover points from conveyors and reducing the heights which bulk solids will fall within the process.

However, if leaks do occur, managers, operators and technicians must be educated to fully appreciate the hazards associated with combustible dusts to ensure that leaking combustible dust is immediately removed and equipment rectified in the same manner one would do if a flammable gas or liquid was leaking from the process.  

Using the appropriate equipment to remove the dust is also key, dust layers may present a low risk in certain environments, but where the cleaning procedure involves the use of compressed air (seen far too often) or a non-certified vacuum system (not a job for Henry Hoover!) the risks increase exponentially.  

A poor safety culture around combustible dusts, ignorance of hazards and failure to change procedures “that have never had any issues in the past” are the mindsets that lead to disaster.  Though dust explosions are less common, they present a significant hazard, the practices frequently observed are very much an accident waiting to happen -  Don’t let it be on your watch, take measures now to train your staff!

David Price & Louise Black
Gexcon UK Ltd