For facilities or operations that generate dust, the risk of an explosion is a lot higher than you might think. Assessing the risk — and implementing additional safeguards, as needed — is not only necessary to ensure the protection of your workers and facility, it is now required by code.
The latest edition of the International Fire Code (IFC) and NFPA 1 requires compliance with NFPA 652 (Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust). This standard mandates that operators of facilities with potentially combustible dust perform a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA). This analysis is an evaluation of the fire, deflagration and explosion hazards within the facility.
The Danger of Combustible Dust
Workers and facilities that manufacture or handle combustible particulate solids are susceptible to fire and explosion risks, which can be caused by a variety of industrial applications on materials such as metal, wood, fiberglass and laminates.
Between 1980 to 2005, there were 281 combustible dust incidents nationwide, killing 119 workers and injuring 718, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. Advances in technology, coupled with tighter regulations, have improved safety in recent years. Still, from 2016 to 2018, there were an average of 31 incidents per year, with an average of four fatalities and 34 injuries per year.
The Purpose of a Dust Hazard Analysis
Operations undergoing material modification or changes to their processes are required to complete a DHA. The latest NFPA 652 also requires all facilities with existing, unchanged processes to complete a DHA by Sept. 7, 2020.
A Dust Hazard Analysis serves three purposes:
- Personal Safety: Ensure the occupants of a facility, as well as the public, are reasonably protected from a fire or explosion
- Property Protection: Prevent fire and explosions from damaging the facility’s structural elements and adjacent properties
- Business Integrity: Limit damage, should a fire or explosion occur, enabling a facility to get back up and running quickly after an incident
How a Dust Hazard Analysis Is Performed
A Dust Hazard Analysis consists of a systematic review of a facility to determine fire and explosion hazards associated with the presence of combustible particulate solids in a process or facility.
The first step in achieving code compliance is to identify whether the dust in your facility is combustible or non-combustible. Many materials can be explosive in dust form, and testing is often necessary to be certain.
A Dust Hazard Analysis is required if the dust is combustible and should address several key questions:
- Does a hazard exist?
- Is the dust in suspension?
- Is ignition feasible?
If no hazard exists and ignition is not feasible, the facility’s process for handling dust is documented. Existing safeguards are reviewed if a hazard exists.
If existing safeguards are appropriate and reliable, the DHA concludes. If not, additional safeguards are identified and an implementation plan is put into action. This could include changes to the materials being used, the facility’s processes or operations, or even the facility itself.
Who Conducts a Dust Hazard Analysis?
A Dust Hazard Analysis should be performed by a qualified person. The standard states the person should be familiar with the facility’s:
- Safety systems
- Emergency procedures
- Materials being manufactured or handled
The qualified person could be the owner or operator of the facility or an outside entity, such as an engineer, consultant or equipment manufacturer.
With the expertise of an in-house engineering team consisting of electrical and mechanical engineers, licensed structural engineers and code compliance specialists, Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) can aid customers in completing a Dust Hazard Analysis. Geoff Raifsnider, a senior mechanical engineer for GFS, serves on NFPA technical committees and is involved in the formation, review and revision of fire safety codes and standards.
GFS also offers solutions to safely and effectively capture dust produced from sanding, grinding and blasting operations. This includes a full range of Dust Collection Booths and Dust Collection Modules. GFS has experience dealing with a range of materials and applications and can recommend equipment that meets your business’ needs.