November 30, 2017


I suspect that the process material for the application I’m working on is a combustible dust but my client has no data and is not willing to pay for testing. This is a scenario most powder handling integrators run into at some point. So what’s next?  

A couple steps can help smooth this process over and enable you to appropriately address the combustible dust hazard. 

1.     Educate your customer on their responsibility. 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides minimum requirements to guide the safe handling of combustible dusts that are enforced by OSHA, fire marshals, building inspectors, and insurance underwriters.  

Per NFPA 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, the owner/operator of the facility is responsible for characterizing combustible materials, identifying combustible dust hazards in their facility, mitigating those hazards, and communicating hazards to the workforce. 

2.     Use literature data to serve as a placeholder. 

For the first time ever, NFPA 652 allows for the use of literature data to support a DHA. A couple quick words of caution though.  

a.     You want to make sure the data was generated from material that provides a good representation of the process material in question.

b.     Before finalizing designs for explosion mitigation – it is prudent to get actual test data.  

That said, there are a few good resources you can use to educate your customer on the explosive properties of their material. Many of the NFPA standards focused on combustible dust have include a data set in the appendix. NFPA 652 provides a data for a variety of materials in Annex A.

Another great resource is the Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA, Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance, Sankt Augustin, Germany). The IFA website has a great searchable data base that includes info on over 6000 materials.

This database is great in that it provides particle size info and explosiblity parameters for a wide variety of materials. Having a benchmark for design purposes provides a good basis for proposal generation while giving you some data to point to when discussing options with your customer.

3.     Suggest a dust hazard analysis (DHA)  

If your customer is still on the fence, suggest they perform a DHA. The primary goal of a DHA is to identify where combustible dust hazards exist in your customers facility. This often extends beyond the system of interest and typically identifies a need for improved dust control. Having an independent review of the system performed by a third party can help ease concerns of “up-selling” your customer may have. Additionally, your customer is responsible for performing a DHA on all new installations or modifications that exceed 25% of the original install costs. 

Ultimately, most professionals aim to provide a system that satisfies the needs of their customer and is safe to operate. Hopefully, these tips are useful in accomplishing the later. For more information, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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