Preventing Combustible Dust Explosions at Construction Worksites

Combustible Dust Explosions are serious hazards that can be prevented with proper safety procedures.

Combustible Dust was the cause of a fatal explosion in July 2012. Watco Mechanical Services, Jordan General Contractors, and JP Electric were cited with 22 serious violations. Two employees of Jordan General Contractors were killed and a third injured at the Watco Mechanical Services facility in Hockley, Texas. Workers mistakenly ignited the dust while using a torch to cut metal. OSHA found that the the company neglected to provide warning signs to inform employees about combustible dust hazards. They also failed to train workers on the hazards of working near combustible dust. There was an additional failure to prohibit metal cutting operations near exposed combustible dust.

Combustible Dust Precautions Is A Key Housekeeping Issue

OSHA asks construction workers to take precautions in an effort to prevent  dust-related explosions. OSHA officials constantly emphasize fatalities and injuries related to combustible dust can be avoided.  They urge the following guidelines:

• Develop an effective housekeeping program to eliminate dust build-up.

• Adhere to the National Fire Protection Association’s standards.

• Limit and control possible ignition sources in dust accumulation areas.

• Avoid the use of condensed air, dry sweeping, or other cleaning methods that disperse combustible dust into the air when feasible.

• Implement a training program relative to combustible dust hazards.

• Ensure electrical service in combustible dust areas is appropriate and mandated by the National Electrical Code.

• Create a preventative maintenance program to keep processing equipment in good condition.

Any material, when reduced to fine, particle form will burn readily. If that material is suspended in the air, and a proper ignition source becomes available the mix can be explosive. The result can be deadly. Even some metals that normally would not readily burn, such as aluminum, can be dangerous if in the right concentration. OSHA has specific resources and tips for handling these combustible mixtures at their Safety and Health Topics portion of their website.