Dust collection systems are air quality improvement systems used in industrial, commercial, and home shops to improve the breathable air quality by removing particulates from the air and environment. Dust collection systems work on the theory of capture, convey, and collect; an important process to prevent lung issues including bronchitis, emphysema, and cancer. However, when these systems are not properly maintained or employees are not adequately trained on how to minimize dust explosions, serious, and often deadly accidents can occur.
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Combustible dust explosions can occur in any area of a worksite, but the most common area is actually within the dust collection system. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) sets the standards and codes necessary for dust safety, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces these standards. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is an independent Federal agency responsible for investigating industrial chemical accidents. When these important rules and regulations aren’t followed, dust explosions may occur.
Dust explosions are the result of solid organic materials, metals, or inorganic nonmetallic materials which are reduced to a fine particle and dispersed into an atmosphere that can explode under the right conditions. Any industry that produces materials of fine particle size is combustible, as are businesses that produce large amounts of secondary dust in their day-to-day operations including food, plastic, wood processing, and metal companies.
Dust Collection Systems
There are a number of dust collection systems available that comply with NFPA standards for explosion protection and fall into two categories, active and passive. Passive systems react to an event to keep employees safe and minimize damage to equipment, where active systems react prior to or during an event to prevent an explosion. Active systems are much more expensive and require recertification every three (3) months.
A wide range of problems can occur that can contribute to an explosion with a dust collection system. The most commonly seen dust collection system accidents occur because of the following:
- Maintaining status quo – Employers that have never had a dust collection system issue may simply ignore the probability that an accident can occur. Just because there has never been a problem doesn’t mean there can’t be one.
- Lack of risk evaluation – Companies should conduct a hazard analysis on the dust produced by their facility to determine the proper type of dust collection system for their operations. Any dust about 0 Kst is considered explosive.
- Bargain hunting – Employers who choose low-cost dust collection systems to put their employees at risk. Bargain machines will likely require more upkeep and total replacement quicker than a more expensive dust collection system.
- Non-compliant devices – Using uncertified or non-compliant dust collection systems are always risky and there are no guarantees that the device will perform of expected.
- Housekeeping problems – Diligent cleaning is important in dust collection systems to prevent hazardous levels of dust accumulation. Filters must be changed regularly, dust hoppers should be emptied into separate drums or storage containers, and even high-level surfaces must be adequately cleaned.
The dangers of dust collection system accidents are a very serious reality with the ability to cause great amounts of property damage, serious injuries, and the loss of life. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to negligence on the job site or a defective product, an experienced personal injury lawyer can review your claim and determine if there were unsafe working conditions, potential OSHA violations, and other hazards that may have existed at the time of your accident. They will also determine who may be liable for your injuries and damages and what compensation you may be entitled to.
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