For a fire to burn it needs three elements present simultaneously: Fuel, Ignition, and Oxygen – also known as the “Fire Triangle”. But for a combustible dust explosion, two additional elements are needed to form what is known as the “Dust Explosion Pentagon”. These two elements are Confinement and Dispersion. They are created when the fuel, in this case combustible dust, is spread out as a dust cloud within a closed area, such as a factory or warehouse. However, taking away even one of these elements can remove the risk of a dust explosion; however the risk for a fire can still be present.
What Elements of the Dust Explosion Pentagon Can Be Removed To Prevent Dust Explosions?
Since oxygen is a component of air and is necessary for workers to breathe it is the hardest element to remove from the explosion pentagon.
Ignition (heat, spark, etc.)
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 too hot when it is operating. However, it is next to impossible to completely remove the risk for an ignition since it can be caused by such varied sources.
Proper combustible dust cleaning is one of the most effective ways to prevent a dust explosion. By taking away the fuel 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 only be done by a trained professional.
By cleaning any accumulated dust, you are preventing the possibility of this element from being dispersed into the air, which ultimately removes it from even becoming a part of the dust explosion pentagon. Having the facility professionally cleaned by people following NFPA combustible dust protocols is an essential step in preventing a disaster.
This is another difficult element of the dust explosion pentagon to control, since working in a facility means it has to be a closed area. Environmental issues prevent manufacturers from releasing accumulated dust into the outside air, which means it stays confined inside the building.
Contact a Hughes Environmental representative to learn how we can help you avoid a dust explosion in the workplace.
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