New Safety and Health Resources Focus on Combustible Dust

            In response to recent accidents involving combustible dust fires and explosions the Department of Labor has published documents to address the hazards associated with these different types of combustible material.

Elements Needed for a Fire (the familiar “Fire Triangle”):

            1. Combustible dust (fuel);

            2. Ignition source (heat); and,

            3. Oxygen in air (oxidizer).

Additional Elements Needed for a Combustible Dust Explosion include:

            4. Dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration; and,

            5. Confinement of the dust cloud.

Links on this page can provide you with safety and health information for;

  • Hazards associated with combustible dusts
  • Work practices and guidelines that reduce the potential for a combustible dust explosion, or that reduce the danger to employees if such an explosion occurs; and,
  • Training to protect employees from these hazards.

            Workers are the first line of defense in preventing and mitigating fires and explosions.  If the people closest to the source of the hazard are trained to recognize and prevent hazards associated with combustible dust in the plant, they can be instrumental in recognizing unsafe conditions, taking preventative action, and/or alerting management.  While OSHA standards require training for certain employees, all employees should be trained in safe work practices applicable to their job tasks, as well as on the overall plant programs for dust control and ignition source control.  They should be trained before they start work, periodically to refresh their knowledge, when reassigned, and when hazards or processes change.

            Employers with hazardous chemicals (including combustible dusts) in their workplaces are required to comply with 29 CFR 1910.1200, the Hazard Communication standard.  This includes having labels on containers of hazardous chemicals, using material safety data sheets, and providing employee training.

            OSHA has posted new resources related to combustible dust on its Web site to help employers and employees understand dust fire and explosion associated hazards and ways to prevent those hazards.  

For more information and OSHA resources on combustible dust:

Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating
the Effects of Fire and Explosions

Hazard Alert: Combustible Dust Explosions Fact Sheet

Combustible Dust Poster

The Reissued Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program