Both OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are updating their combustible dust standards. If your facility generates combustible dust, now is a good time to learn about the changes and ensure you stay in compliance.
The danger of combustible dust
Combustible dust is any fine material that can catch fire and explode if it becomes airborne and meets an ignition source. The trick is that just about any material can become combustible under the right conditions.
OSHA estimates that 30,000 U.S. facilities are at risk for major combustible dust explosions. The conditions for disaster exist in all types of facilities – from food processing to pharmaceutical manufacturing to metalworking. It only takes one spark for airborne dust to ignite.
Proper capture and containment of combustible dust is not merely an exercise in regulatory compliance – it is necessary to help prevent fires and explosions that can injure employees, damage facilities, and delay production.
OSHA has revised its combustible dust program
On Jan. 27, OSHA issued a revised Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) based on enforcement history and combustible dust incident reports. The program will guide OSHA inspections of facilities that generate or handle combustible dusts likely to cause fire, flash fire, deflagration and explosion hazards.
According to a recent article in EHS Today
, in 2018, wood and food products made up an average of 70% of the materials involved in combustible dust fires and explosions. Incident reports indicate that the majority of the industries involved in combustible dust hazards are wood processing, agricultural and food production and lumber production, but others are susceptible as well.
OSHA’s revised program
sets forth a new approach for locating and inspecting subject establishments. The following industries were added to the program because OSHA found they had a higher likelihood of having combustible dust hazards or experienced combustible dust-related fatalities/catastrophes:
- Commercial Bakeries
- Printing Ink Manufacturing
- Cut Stock, Resawing Lumber, and Planning
- Leather and Hide Tanning and Finishing
- Truss Manufacturing
- Grain and Field Bean Merchant Wholesalers
This revised NEP directive replaces the one issued in March 2008 and remains in effect until OSHA issues a cancellation notice.
NFPA 660 on the horizon
As recently reported in Industrial Safety and Hygiene News
, NFPA is in the process of clarifying and consolidating all combustible dust standards into a single standard, NFPA 660. NFPA 652 and other current dust standards will go away upon NFPA 660’s release in late 2024/early 2025.
Currently, NFPA 652: Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, is the standard for dust basics and is a good starting point for combustible dust standards, best practices, and the requirements for a dust hazard analysis (DHA). The other five standards, all of which are commodity-specific, are:
- NFPA 61: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Products Facilities
- NFPA 484: Standard for Combustible Metals
- NFPA 654: Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
- NFPA 655: Standard for Prevention of Sulfur Fires and Explosions
- NFPA 664: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities
Commodity-specific standards were developed because recommendations and requirements that are beneficial at one facility—to prevent fire, deflagration, or explosion—could be detrimental at another facility that processes different materials (e.g., materials that may be water-reactive). By updating and consolidating these standards and NFPA 652 into the new 660 standard, the NFPA’s goal is to create one document that provides improved consistency among, and easier access to, all dust-related information.
Once NFPA 660 takes effect, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) will start to enforce the new standard instead of the previous standards.
Mitigate the risks of combustible dust
Regulations evolve over time, but a catastrophic explosion can happen in an instant. That’s why Nilfisk offers free dust mitigation assessments to help reduce the risk of combustible dust explosions and keep your people and facility safe. These assessments include:
- Review of your cleaning challenges and pain points
- Advice on alternate equipment solutions to improve your operations
- On-site equipment demonstrations