Most of the companies we work with have a good record for factory safety. With OSHA safety regulations, there’s been a big push for factories to remove hazards from the work area.
One area that sometimes gets missed is the handling of dust and fumes. This is very important in metalworking industries. Metal dust creates unique problems, and a safety plan must take these into account. Here are some safety tips for factory workers as well as their plant leaders.
Factory Safety Tip #1: TREAT ALL METAL DUST AS COMBUSTIBLE
Unless you have had your dust tested, you should assume that metal dust is combustible.
Because of proper fire and explosion safety devices, many metal dust fires are confined to the dust collector. However, one example from the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) shows how improper handling of metal dust is a safety hazard.
The safety failure occurred in a plant in West Virginia working with titanium metal and powder. Titanium is a very combustible metal, and it was being stored in open containers throughout the facility. Sparks generated from a mixing machine ignited the powder. (See the CSB’s investigation of this incident here.)
Another explosion occurred on January 3, 2019 in a metal recycling factory. A machine shredding metal scraps into powder caused an explosion that blew out a wall and burned several workers. These types of incidents are obvious safety hazards.
Metal fires burn at anywhere from 5000 to 8000 degrees F. Once they have ignited, they are extremely hard to put out. The best factory safety solution is to do a hazard check of the facility and eliminate two key elements: the presence of loose combustible dust and the presence of ignition sources.
Manage the dust with a dust collection system equipped with proper safety features. A correctly designed dust collector is one of the most important pieces of factory cleaning equipment. Getting rid of ignition sources might mean checking all machinery regularly for malfunctions or overheating. It also means having a safety plan in place for all repairs, especially hot work, done in the factory.
Factory Safety Tip #2: DON’T TREAT A METAL FIRE LIKE AN ORDINARY FIRE
Metal fires cannot be put out with water. They cannot be put out with commercial ABC extinguishers that are part of many factory safety plans. This safety tip can make the difference between extinguishing and fueling a metal fire.
Only a Class D fire extinguisher can put out metal fires. Why can’t you use water or other typical fire extinguishers?
Metal dust fires burn much hotter than other materials. If water from the factory fire safety system is sprayed on this type of fire, some of the water will turn to scalding steam. The rest of the water will break down to hydrogen and oxygen. Both gasses are flammable. It’s just adding fuel to the fire, as confirmed in this article by Fire Engineering.
Any facility that produces or handles metal dust should have a safety plan that includes Class D extinguishers. Another key safety tip is that there must be clear exits so people can escape quickly. A metal fire can burn very fast and destroy a building in minutes.
Factory Safety Tip #3: MAKE SURE YOUR SUPPLIER DESIGNS YOUR DUST COLLECTION SYSTEM FOR METAL DUST
Metal dust from cutting, welding, or grinding is very fine, often less than 0.3 microns. It is also usually combustible. Inside a dust collector and under pressure, it is explosive. A dust collection system that meets NFPA standards will improve plant safety.
Equip dust collectors that handle combustible dust with devices to detect, isolate, and extinguish flames or explosions. Without devices to isolate a deflagration and vent it away from people and buildings, factory safety could be at risk.
A key safety tip is to make sure that the company who builds and installs your dust collection system understands and can explain all of the required fire safety equipment to you.
Another important safety tip is to make sure to keep this equipment in good working order. This includes changing the filters when they need it and having regular inspections and maintenance on the collector.
By following these tips, you can greatly improve plant safety and decrease the hazards of metal dust and fumes.
The basic answer is that yes, a dust explosion is more likely during this season. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that since 1995, 7 out of 8 serious dust explosions occurred in the winter. February was the most dangerous month.
Why does dust explode more often in the winter? There are several factors responsible:
DRY AIR AND LOW HUMIDITY
When the air is cold and dry in the winter, dust contains less moisture. This means it can become airborne more easily. Clouds of dry airborne dust can ignite quickly. Make sure the dust collection system is in good working order and get rid of any escaped dust as soon as possible to prevent this situation.
What if you live in an area where the humidity is always low? This creates the same risks that dry winter air creates in other places. A combustible dust explosion is more likely to occur any time that the air is dry.
Dry air encourages static electricity charges to build up more easily than when the air is humid. A spark from static electricity can be enough to ignite a combustible dust explosion. Many of the dust collectors we’ve seen when doing maintenance visits are not properly grounded, or not grounded at all.
The best way to prevent the buildup of static electricity in the dust collection system (and other places) is to properly ground all dust-handling equipment. This is an important protective measure no matter what season it is.
The fact that so many systems are not grounded shows why your experienced professionals should design and install your dust collection system.
Some facilities keep doors, windows, and vents open during warm weather, which increases natural airflow. In the winter, though, it means lost heat which means lost money. Most places are sealed up as much as possible in the winter to keep the cold out, but this also keeps the dust in. Shops that count on open doors and vents to keep the air clean in the summer might be at risk of a dust explosion in the winter.
Dust buildup inside the facility in winter can also cause a dangerous situation: the potential for a secondary explosion. These happen when dust builds up somewhere, which can happen on any flat surface.
This is more likely to happen in a closed-up shop in the winter. However, it can happen any time. Secondary dust explosions happen when a first, smaller explosion happens. This might not be that bad, but the secondary dust explosion can be much worse. The first explosion blows all the accumulated dust into the air, and then it can ignite in a much bigger explosion.
Heaters get turned on in the winter. There’s a good chance they haven’t been turned on since last winter. They can act as an ignition source, especially if they have any faulty wiring. Just one spark is enough for ignition. This has led to some of the worst combustible dust explosions in recent history.
In already dry winter conditions, a spark from a damaged heater is even more likely to ignite an explosion. Sparks from static can also cause ignition.
For dust to ignite, the classic “fire triangle” has to be present: fuel (combustible dust), oxygen, and an ignition source. If you remove any of those things, you can stop a dust explosion from occurring.
Because you can’t guarantee a lack of ignition sources, the best solution is to remove the fuel. A dust collection system fitted with appropriate NFPA safety devices can remove dust from your facility. With explosion isolation valves and other safety features, the dust collection system can also control a dust explosion and vent it safely.
As an added bonus, a dust collection system with high efficiency nanofiber DeltaMAXX filters can usually return air to your facility after filtering. This means that in the winter, the dust gets removed, but the heat stays inside where it belongs.
DON’T HAVE A WINTER WHERE YOU ARE?
Not everyone can be lucky enough to enjoy the ice, snow, and frigid weather of a Pennsylvania winter like we are. Maybe where you’re located, there isn’t really a cold season where the doors are closed or the heaters are on.
Do you have a dry season? During any time when the humidity is low, you have an increased risk of a combustible dust explosion.
Besides, steps like grounding your equipment, removing ignition sources, and cleaning up your dust are always a good idea no matter where you’re located.
Installing dust extraction systems in the industrial workplace helps keep employees and equipment safe. After all, industrial processes usually generate hazardous dust and fumes. So make sure you invest in a high quality dust extraction system that will do its job and maintain safety.
It may be tempting to look at cost before quality as you consider various dust extraction system manufacturers. However, industrial dust extraction is an area in which you do not want to compromise on safety. Therefore, here are some tips to ensure the safety of your dust extraction equipment.
8 Tips for Safe Industrial Dust Extraction Systems
1. Pressure Rating
First, find an industrial dust extractor with high pressure ratings. If you invest in a durable system that is already equipped with proper protection, additional protection costs will be decreased.
Second, buy quality ductwork. You may have the best system in the world, but your ductwork may be low grade and lack essential parts like dampers and valves. As a result, the threat of serious, explosive malfunctions is still high.
3. Hopper Storage
Next, keep the storage area beneath the hopper clean. The pulse-cleaning system could be hindered if it is not consistently emptied.
Avoid using a programmable logic controller (PLC) to run your pulse-cleaning system. In short, PLCs are too slow for fast-paced pulse cleaning.
5. Filter Change
Select a system with which filter exchanges can be done safely and with ease. Consequently, if the filters are positioned high or in an inconvenient place, changing them out can be very taxing and even dangerous.
6. Filter Life
Filters are a very important part of industrial dust extraction equipment. In particular, one of the most significant aspects of filters is their life span. Certainly, longer filter life both lowers costs and employee dust exposure.
7. Fire Prevention
Vertically mounted filters do not allow dust to accumulate on top of them. Favorably, this eliminates a fire hazard. Further, there are a number of features that industrial dust extraction systems have that can prevent fires. Examples include flame-retardant filter media and spark arrestors.
A number of safety accessories can be added to your system. For example, railed platforms and ladders, lock-out doors, BIBO (bag-in, bag-out) containment systems, and safety monitoring filters all decrease the risk of hazards.
Compare Dust Extraction Companies
In summary, keep safety in mind when you evaluate the products of dust extraction system manufacturers. What practical features and innovations do they offer, especially for your particular safety issues? Imperial Systems offers high quality industrial dust extraction systems that meet all OSHA and EPA safety standards. You can be sure that you have a safe and secure system from Imperial. Learn more about the CMAXX dust and fume collection system here.
The grain and animal feed manufacturing process has always been an area of concern when it comes to combustible dust. Therefore, the NFPA has a standard specifically for this industry: NFPA 61 (Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities).
OSHA also highly regulates dust hazards in the animal feed processing industry. In fact, OSHA has leveled some fines higher than $1 million for recent fatal explosions in this industry.
Explosions at grain and feed mill processing plants kill several people every year and cause many explosions. Certainly, the feed manufacturer is especially prone to these accidents because their materials are often in dust form and just need an ignition source to explode.
The best way to control dust at a feed processing plant (and the way recommended by NFPA and OSHA) is with a dust collection system. However, handling all the dust in your facility is going to require a major investment… so, how do you make sure you get the best system for your money?
The key to a safe, efficient system is having it designed by a company with experience in your industry and a track record of not cutting corners. Further, a cheap system will cost you money in maintenance and attempts to fix design flaws.
ELEMENTS OF A GOOD SYSTEM DESIGN FOR FEED MANUFACTURING:
- Proper airflow through the entire system
- Correctly sized fans
- Explosion and fire protection
- Good dust containment
- Correctly sized dust collector
- Enough filter area
Let’s look at each of these to see why they’re important for you.
If air can’t move through the ductwork efficiently, then there will be places where it slows down or runs into obstructions. As a result, this causes three problems. First, it decreases your system’s efficiency and wastes fan power. Second, it slows down the air so dust can fall out and build up in the duct. Third, dust traveling through a badly designed system can cause wear and tear on the duct at bends and corners.
CORRECTLY SIZED FANS
If the fan isn’t big enough for the job, it won’t keep dust flowing through the system. Also, if air moves too slowly it won’t pick up dust at the capture points and it won’t keep it moving through the ducts. Consequently, dust built up in ductwork can cause fires.
EXPLOSION AND FIRE PROTECTION
Any dust collection system for feed manufacturing has to have proper fire protection. Some examples of this include spark traps, abort gates, explosion isolation valves, or extinguisher systems. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. An experienced system designer will help you choose the best tools to protect your facility and your employees.
GOOD DUST CONTAINMENT
It doesn’t do much good to have a dust collection system if it isn’t controlling your dust problem. Dust is probably being generated at lots of places in your animal feed processing plant. If the dust collection system isn’t capturing the dust at those spots, it will get loose. In short, nobody wants the facility to be a dusty mess, and it’s also a fire hazard.
CORRECTLY SIZED DUST COLLECTOR
It might be tempting to go for the smallest dust collector that will work for your cattle feed processing plant. Ironically, this might not save you as much money in the long run as you think. This is because an undersized system is going to require more filter changes and other maintenance. Further, if your production expands, that barely-big-enough system may not be able to keep up anymore.
ENOUGH FILTER AREA
A dust collector can’t do its job if its filters can’t function. Every type of system has an ideal air-to-cloth ratio, the amount of filter area that should be available for the air flowing through them. So if you don’t have enough filter area, your filters may get overloaded with dust and stop working. Therefore, they will need replaced more often, which costs money and time.
A dust collection system for feed manufacturing must be designed for this special application. Grain and feed manufacturing facilities like a feed hammer mill can have fine and coarse dust at different parts of the feed mill process. Most feed processing methods have many places where dust is being generated. Also, dust in this application is usually very combustible.
In conclusion, talk to an expert in dust collection system design to keep your facility and your employees safe. Our Imperial Systems professionals will make sure you get the best system for your money without cutting any corners or leaving gaps in your protection.
Imagine that you’re doing an online search for “dust collector”. You’re going to get a lot of results. Some will be for large commercial dust collectors. However, some will be for small units made to fit in a home garage. How do you get through the maze of search results to find the dust collector that you’re looking for? First of all, what do you need your dust collector to do? A commercial dust collector, like the ones we make, is a major investment. Let’s look at some examples of who needs a commercial dust collector and who needs a smaller and less expensive solution.
Consider These Scenarios
“My home business produces a lot of sawdust and it’s a mess.”
Jim has a one-man woodworking business and operates it out of his garage. He cuts, saws, and sands wood. As a result, his work produces a lot of sawdust, which he knows is a fire hazard as well as a mess. However, Jim does not need a commercial dust collector. So, if he does a search for home dust collection system, he’ll find lots of options that will do the job for him.
“The three of us weld and grind metal a lot during the work day.”
Anne owns a small metalworking business. She does a lot of welding. In addition, she has two employees who weld and grind metal for part of the day. To stay safe, Anne and her employees definitely need dust and fume collection. There are many search results for small business dust collector that will offer Anne some good options. In this case, a commercial dust collector is too big and too expensive for her needs.
“We’re getting a lot of fumes in the shop and I’m worried about everybody’s health.”
Adam is the owner of a metalworking shop. He has ten employees, but plans to add more. They usually spend the entire work day welding and grinding. The shop also has a laser cutting table. As a result, air in the shop is often cloudy with fumes. Opening the doors helps a little in the summer, but it’s a huge waste of heat in the winter. Even in the summer, the cutting table creates a cloud of fumes. Therefore, Adam’s business might want to invest in a commercial dust collector system. This system would be a good investment because it would be able to handle the dust from the welding and grinding. It would also be big enough to deal with the cutting table. If Adam searches for commercial dust collector, he will get results that are more in line with his needs.
“We’ve got dust going everywhere and it’s a huge problem for our business.”
ABC Company is a food processing company that packages powdered food products. Most noteworthy, many of these are combustible. The company has some small dust collectors located over some of the conveyors. However, they have dust built up around the facility and when loads are dumped into bins, dust goes everywhere. This company absolutely needs to look at a commercial dust collector. They have a serious dust problem that’s coming from many different applications in their building. Consequently, a high danger of having a large fire or explosion exists. They are also in danger of serious OSHA fines for the fire hazard. Above all, their dust collection system needs to have solid flame and explosion protection equipment for their combustible material.
“We got fined because our current system isn’t efficient enough for new standards.”
Batteries R Us is a large company that manufactures batteries for vehicles. They have a commercial dust collector in place already. However, they recently got fined for an EPA violation because their system was not capturing enough of the lead dust from their process. Also, their dust collector is old and was installed before some of the newer EPA and OSHA regulations were put in place. To get back into compliance, this company needs to invest in a new, updated commercial dust collector. Plus, the new system will need to have HEPA filters to catch the maximum amount of lead dust.
Get Expert Advice for a Commercial Dust Collector
For any business, a commercial dust collector system is a serious investment. However, if that’s what it takes to keep people healthy and keep your facility safe, it’s worth it. You might only need a small home unit, or perhaps only one or two small portable units for your small shop. But if you’ve got big dust and fume problems and you need to make a major investment to help solve them, please allow us to help you plan the best system for your needs.
Dust control solutions are the number one concern for any work environment where employees are exposed to dangerous fumes or dust from metal, chemicals, wood, grains, or any type of particulates that may pose a significant health hazard. Providing a safe place for your personnel to work every day, along with ensuring that you are protecting your community from harmful exposure to dangerous particulates, is a necessary component of your responsibilities to your company and your compliance with environmental regulations. Fortunately, modern industrial dust control systems are also a wise, long-term investment, which can save you time and money in your efforts to keep the air and water clean for your workplace and your surrounding community.
While providing state of the art dust control equipment to companies in a wide variety of industries over several years, we at Imperial Systems have made it our priority to save businesses time and money in their efforts to maintain a clean, safe, and healthy workplace. From our dust control systems to our NanoFiber filter technology, our equipment promises superior performance while consuming less energy and guaranteeing safety throughout the workplace.
Dust Control Solutions: The Basics
If you are unfamiliar with the basic components of dust control technology, the following is a brief description of the dust and fume control equipment we offer to help you provide a safe and clean environment for your company.
- Dust Collector Systems: With 10% more filter media than other vertical cartridge systems, our CMAXX Dust Collector System gives you a longer filter life. It is designed to facilitate the easier collection of dust in the hopper, with 20% more space around the filters than in other dust collectors. With pulse distribution (PD) technology, the CMAXX system extends the life of your filters up to 200%.
- CMAXX Laser and Plasma Fume Extraction Systems are factory pre-wired and ready to operate, and can be custom fit to almost any location. With 10 gauge steel construction and a built-in spark trap specifically designed for laser and plasma table systems, these systems offer superior protection for any environment.
- DeltaMAXX Dust Collector Cartridge Filters boast a MERV 15 filtration efficiency, capturing 99.9% of particulates from .3 to .5 microns. With our NanoFiber technology, particulates fall off of the filters more easily, so the pulse distribution systems in your dust control products use significantly less energy.
- Heavy Duty Abort Gates: As a necessary component of most dust control solutions, abort gates can prevent disastrous events triggered by sparks or embers. Our fail-safe electromagnets and gate accelerating springs are among the many features that make Imperial Systems’ abort gates the best in the industry.
For more information about dust control solutions for your company, contact Imperial Systems today. We look forward to discussing how we can meet your unique needs to help keep your employees safe while making a substantial long-term investment for your business.