November 7, 2019 / Brian Richardson

Common Questions about Industrial Dust Safety

Sponsored by Camfil APC

Dust is everywhere, including our workplace. It’s more than just a nuisance; it can be very hazardous. Dust is tiny particles of solid matter. These dry airborne particles can be produced virtually anywhere, but they eventually settle on flat surfaces. (Wet, airborne particles are called “mist” rather than dust, so they are not part of this discussion.)

Industrial dust (process dust) is produced during manufacturing or processing operations like cutting, sawing, mixing, drilling, and grinding. Process dust can also come from ingredients or materials used to manufacture a product, such as sugar, flour, and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Metalworking processes like welding, laser cutting, and plasma cutting also produce tiny particles.

All dust can trigger symptoms of asthma and allergies. However, industrial dust can be much more dangerous because it can contain chemicals and metal particles that are harmful if inhaled or touched. In addition, many process dusts are combustible, burnable, or explosive. These dusts can cause workplace explosions and fires if not managed properly. If you have combustible dust, it is critical that you properly collect and contain it to protect workers’ health.

An industrial dust collector is a large piece of equipment that extracts nuisance and hazardous dusts and fumes from the air before they can be inhaled or settle on surfaces. Dust collectors protect workers and expensive equipment from hazardous dust. They are also required for many plants to meet air quality standards and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines. However, they need to be sized and designed correctly for each facility to perform effectively. They also need to be maintained properly and fitted with the right kind of air filters.

Cartridge-style dust collectors have become the industry norm because the disposable filter cartridges continually “self-clean.” As the cartridges become loaded with dust, the dust collector pulses compressed air through them to expel the dust into a disposal bin. This auto-cleaning process greatly extends the life of the filters, but they eventually need to be replaced.

The following questions and answers will help you better understand dust collectors.

What kind of filter cartridge should i use?

Not all filters are the same, and bargain-brand replacement filters can be much more costly in the long run. For example, filters using HemiPleat technology stay cleaner and last longer than standard filters, resulting in fewer changeouts and more uptime. It’s also critical to select the best filter media for your application. Dust properties like size, shape, and combustibility all factor into the decision. The only way to get an accurate assessment of these dust properties is to do dust testing. Camfil APC can provide this type of dust testing, and so can many independent laboratories and equipment suppliers.

Can a dust collector explode?

Yes. While it’s not always possible to prevent an explosion inside a dust collector, you certainly can take measures to mitigate any explosion that occurs. OSHA has strict requirements for any dust collectors that handle combustible dust. Deflagration protection such as explosion venting, isolation valves, or safety monitoring filters is mandatory. Deflagration protection such as explosion venting, isolation valves, or safety monitoring filters are required per the NFPA standards on combustible dust such as NFPA 68, Standard on Explosion Protection by Deflegration Venting and NFPA 69, Standard on Explosion Preventions Systems, along with 11 other combustible dust standards. mandatory.

How can I find out if my facility has combustible dust?

Combustible dusts can be metallic or organic. You can use ASTM test methods to determine if your dust is explosive. The “Kst” value denotes the explosive power of dust and the rate of pressure rise. Any dust with a Kst value greater than “0” is considered to be potentially explosive. Common combustible dusts include:

  • Coal
  • Sugar
  • Chemicals
  • Flour
  • Grain
  • Rubber
  • Pesticides
  • Wood
  • Pharmaceuticals

What kinds of dust are most combustible?

If your facility creates metal dust, it is at a higher risk for a combustible dust explosion. Many metal dusts are highly combustible. This means when they collect in the dust collector, there is an increased chance of an explosion. To mitigate the risk of an explosion, make sure the dust collection system is sized correctly and has the proper explosion protection devices and filter cartridges.

When dust is burnable, it creates a higher risk that a combustible dust explosion will happen in a confined area like a dust collector. Even a small amount of dust can be extremely hazardous. If you don’t know if your dust is burnable, you need to find out so you can mitigate the combustible dust hazard. We recommend having your dust tested at a reputable third-party lab.

Should I take any other dust safety measures?

There are many optional safety features available for industrial dust collectors, such as explosion venting and fire suppression, secure doors, sprinkler systems, fire retardant filters, and explosion-tested low-volume discharge. To learn more, watch this video.

Is it safe to store dust in the hopper?

No, dust should never be stored in a dust collector’s hopper. This can create a serious deflagration risk. The hopper is designed to funnel dust from the dust collector to a specifically designed storage bin. Self-dumping hoppers are also available to provide fast and easy dust disposal. They also prevent unwanted dust from leaking out between the collector and hopper.

How do I know which dust collection system is best for my application?

A dust collection system is a significant investment. It is also a critical tool for facility compliance and worker safety. It needs to be designed and installed with your specific operation in mind.

For more information on containing dust and fumes in your facility, contact a Camfil APC product expert.

Brian Richardson

Brian Richardson, Technical Departments manager, has been with Camfil Air Pollution Control since 2008 and has worked in and around manufacturing facilities for almost 25 years. In his current role, Brian is the liaison between the manufacturing areas and the sales and engineering departments and helps manage the company’s maintenance and local community training programs.


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