By: Rick Shassetz and Eric Lowe

Currently, facilities that produce workplace dust resulting from their industrial processes, are required by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 652 to have completed a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA).

As many as 70% of all dusts can be combustible. Originating from solid, organic materials, including sugar, flour and grain as well as wood, metals and plastics, combustible dust may present an explosion or deflagration hazard when a layer that is greater than 1/32-inch accumulates on horizontal surfaces. Even if it’s non-combustible dust, it can still pose a health hazard and present long-term health risks to employees and needs to be addressed.

According to OSHA and the NFPA, it is a business’ responsibility to determine if a combustible dust hazard is present, and conduct a DHA accordingly. A compliant DHA will serve as a tool to improve plant safety by identifying all combustible dust hazards in a facility. A dust hazard analysis will assess:

  • Dust combustibility
  • Past and current processes resulting in dust generation
  • Equipment operating in the space
  • Facility ventilation
  • Potential sources of ignition (electrical, gas, heating, mechanical)
  • Housekeeping habits

A complete, step-by-step example of a DHA can be found in the NFPA 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors are likely to request a DHA compliant with the NFPA 652 Standard when an inspector discovers combustible dust during facility inspections. Documenting the DHA can be as simple as a spreadsheet list with potential dust hazards, where they are located and risk mitigation steps to take.

NFPA 652 also requires facilities to create a formal program for inspecting, testing and maintaining safety-critical systems, and the training of equipment operators and maintenance personnel on job-specific safeguards related to dust hazards prior to working with a dust collection system.

Beyond NFPA, the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), - which includes the local fire marshal or building code inspectors, state/federal OSHA, and your insurance company may have additional safety rules and requirements for workplaces with potentially combustible dust. A dust hazard analysis should be just one part of a larger safety process that includes:

  • Reducing airborne dust from source machinery
  • Installing and maintaining dust collection systems
  • Conducting frequent housekeeping to remove dust in accordance with OSHA
  • Educating staff on the hazards of combustible dust and the reasons for its stringent control

Read “Understanding and Managing Your Dust Hazard Risks” and then contact your HUB Risk Services specialist for help in assessing your risk and complying with OSHA regulations.