Dangerous dusts: reducing the risk of explosions.
Andy Carney, ATEX (Atmospheres Explosibles) specialist at Spinaclean, looks at the cleaning methods
that can help to minimise the risk of explosions across a range of hazardous environments
In March 2017, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published its Business Plan for 2017/18. Whilst
not capturing all that the HSE will deliver during this period, the plan does outline specific priorities within an
overall framework. Included within these priorities is “reducing the likelihood of low-frequency,
high impact catastrophic incidents and the potential for extreme harm to workers and the public”. Combustible dusts can,
in certain circumstances, provide the recipe for such a disaster.
In February 2008, a sugar dust explosion killed 14 employees at the Imperial Sugar Plant in Port Wentworth,
Georgia. A metal powder explosion killed 146 people in 2014 at a Chinese production company, and, closer to
home, four people were killed at the Bosley wood mill near Macclesfield on
17 July 2015.
So what are combustible dusts? Many materials we use everyday produce dusts that are flammable and,
in the form of a cloud, can explode if ignited. Examples are sugar, coal, wood, grain, certain metals and many synthetic
organic chemicals just to name a few. Manufacturing and processing plants that produce these dusts must conform
to the Danger Substance and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR). These can include food manufacturers,
breweries, wood mills and furniture makers and pharmaceutical companies. The Regulations require employers to
make an assessment of the risks arising from dangerous substances and to establish precautions to control any risks
associated with dust fires and explosions. This includes the classification of hazardous areas and the selection of equipment that is intended
to be used within those areas. Proper cleaning is crucial Special precautions need to be taken in hazardous areas to prevent equipment,
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