Know What Elements Can Be Eliminated to Prevent Dust Explosions

We’re used to knowing that flammable solids will burn easily, but what many people may not realize is that dust can be even more flammable and explosive.

The three elements of a fire are required for it to burn. Those elements are: fuel, oxygen, and heat (ignition). This is known as the “Fire Triangle.”

For a combustible dust explosion, two additional elements are needed to form what is known as the “Dust Explosion Pentagon.” The two additional elements are confinement and dispersion.

A combustible dust explosion is created when the dust (fuel) is spread out as a dust cloud within a closed area, such as a factory or warehouse. Taking away even one of these elements can remove the risk of a dust explosion. However, be mindful that the risk for a fire can still be present.

Can Certain Elements Be Removed to Prevent an Explosion?

Oxygen: Unfortunately, we all need oxygen. Oxygen is a component of air and is necessary for workers to breathe. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to remove from the explosion pentagon.

Ignition (heat, spark): This element can be contained to some extent by removing any open flames or potential for sparks to be created. It is also important to make sure machinery is clean and not getting hot when operating. Removing the risk for an ignition source is difficult since it can originate from many different sources.

Combustible Dust (fuel):  Proper combustible dust cleaning is one of the most effective ways to prevent a dust explosion. By taking away the fuel (dust) from the dust explosion pentagon, it removes the risk of an explosion, and also removes the possibility for a fire. The NFPA combustible dust standards outline the best methods for cleaning this dust, which should be done by a certified and trained professional.

Dispersion: By cleaning any accumulated dust, you are preventing the possibility of dispersion. No dust, no dispersion! Again, having a facility professionally cleaned by technicians who follow NFPA combustible dust protocol is a recommended step to prevent a potential catastrophic explosion.

Confinement: This is another difficult element of the dust explosion pentagon to control, as most facilities are in a closed area. Environmental issues prevent manufacturers from releasing accumulated dust into the outside air, which means it stays confined inside the building.

In summary, though not all elements of the combustible dust pentagon can be completely eliminated, combustible dust and its dispersion can be controlled with effective dust collection systems, strict observance of OSHA standards, and regular cleaning by certified and trained environmental professionals.

Hughes Environmental technicians are OSHA-trained and certified to remove combustible dust. Hughes Environmental uses equipment approved for combustible dust cleaning, such as intrinsically safe vacuums and grounded hoses. 

To schedule a cleaning or to speak with a Hughes professional, call 888- 845-3952 or contact us online.