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Take a Key Step Against Combustible Dust Hazards  7
Having a sound mechanical integrity program in place is crucial

Make the Right Moves With Belt Conveyors  15

Understand important factors in their selection, design and operation

Don’t Blow Your Safety Rating  20

Industrial vacuum cleaners should be part of your dust control program

Additional Resources  26



As the cost of energy continues to increase, plant managers

are continually looking for ways to reduce power con-
sumption. Within this dust collection portfolio is the MCF
PowerSaver dust collector, a filter that can save up to 50% of
operational costs by using medium pressure air for the clean-
ing cycle.
The MCF’s integrated blower provides the 0.49 bar
medium pressure air for cleaning which eliminates the need
for plant compressed air in the filter and frees up existing
compressed air capacity for use in other processes.
The dust collector also provides excellent operation
capabilities in high dust load applications and in explosive
atmospheres. Its medium-pressure pulse complemented by precision cleaning has proven
to have much lower emissions than reverse air cleaning filter systems, the company says.

Schenck Process LLC | 816-891-9300 |

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 3

Quick Clean

Feeders Save
Time and Money

The uniquely designed MECHATRON® is the only feeder on the

market that can be completely disassembled from the non-process
side of the feeder in a matter of minutes. This eliminates the need
to remove upper extension hoppers, bins, bulk bags, and IBC’s
to clean or maintain the feeder, saving time and money! Plus, the
Schenck Process LLC
7901 NW 107th Terrace MECHATRON® can be equipped with best-in-class controllers and
Kansas City, MO 64153
816-891-9300 extended helixes and nozzles for challenging feeding applications. Contact us for more information.

Tuthill •  2
Schenck Process •  4
Vac-U-Max •  6
Wyssmont •  14

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 5

Custom Solutions.
From components to fully-automated systems,
we create bulk material handling solutions
entirely around your processing needs and goals.
More than 60 years of custom application experience.
Over 10,000 different powder and bulk materials
handled. Technical expertise in food, pharma,
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as unique and trusted as the pneumatic conveying
solutions we design.

Let us solve your pneumatic conveying and

industrial hygiene challenges.
Visit or call (800) VAC-U-MAX.

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VAC3509 Product 7x10 PCG2 (2016_09_26 13_45_43 UTC) (2016_11_10 23_00_39 UTC).indd 1 10/3/2018 4:39:49 PM

Take a Key Step Against

Combustible Dust Hazards
Having a sound mechanical integrity program in place is crucial

By Robert Gaither, DEKRA Process Safety

FFECTIVELY MANAGING fire and present at the same time. Any appropriate
explosion hazards posed by combus- source of energy can supply the heat, and
tible dust can be a challenging task. high enough concentrations of fuel and
After all, this requires not only a detailed oxygen must exist to support combustion.
understanding of the fuel/combustible
material (dust) but also an understanding On the other hand, if a sufficiently large
of the process equipment, operating con- concentration of combustible dust is sus-
ditions, maintenance practices, engineering pended and ignited in an enclosed space,
and administrative controls currently in the resulting combustion would develop
place, process design strategies, hazards pressure that can cause injuries and
analysis methods and the site’s safety fatalities as well as damage or destroy
culture. It’s not unusual to find facility man- equipment and buildings. The elements
agement with a good understanding of a of dust suspension and combustion con-
process but a limited understanding of the finement commonly are added to the fire
hazards posed by the combustible dust in triangle to depict the “dust explosion pen-
the process. tagon” (Figure 1). If any element of the
pentagon is missing, an explosion won’t
Most organic solids are capable of burn- occur. However, in the absence of confine-
ing when all three elements of the familiar ment, suspended dust still can combust,
fire triangle — fuel, heat and oxygen — are creating a “flash fire” or fireball that can

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 7

Oxidant Fuel

Ignition source Confinement



Figure 1. An effective mechanical integrity program can prevent conditions that can lead to
an explosion.

create a hazard to people and potential whose failure or malfunction could result
property damage. in a combustible dust fire or explosion. A
more-comprehensive approach to MI would
This article outlines an effective approach cover all process equipment that could
to addressing combustible dust hazards contain combustible dust during normal
by implementing a proactive and robust or abnormal conditions, along with instru-
mechanical integrity (MI) program. mentation and alarm/interlock systems
used to prevent combustion. Equipment in
PROGRAM ESSENTIALS the scope of the MI program must remain
Generally speaking, an MI program aims to “fit for service” for its entire lifecycle, from
manage the maintenance of all processing procurement and receiving to installation,
equipment and control systems of a facility maintenance and decommissioning.
to ensure the process is operating safely
and within its intended parameters. If equip- Three brief examples demonstrate the
ment or systems are run outside their safe importance of MI to the control of combus-
operating limits, the potential for equipment tible dust hazards:
failure clearly is much higher.
1. Overheated bearings are a well-known
At minimum, MI includes the inspection, ignition source for combustible dust.
testing and preventive maintenance of Depending on the specific service, equip-
“safety critical” equipment, i.e., those units ment may require an anti-friction bearing

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 8

design. The bearings must be maintained can develop temperatures that could cause
per manufacturer recommendations, with ignition of the powder.
proper lubrication and cleaning at a fre-
quency that would prevent a hazardous Containment of dust within equipment will
buildup of dust. Alternatively, the design depend on frequent inspections or audits
should provide for bearings that are outside to detect incipient failures that could lead
the dusty environment. to leakage or spills. Also, equipment that
could be exposed to combustible dust
An effective MI program would include accumulation must operate with a surface
temperature monitoring of the bearings, temperature well below the LMIT of the
either by manual or automated means, to powder according to ASTM E2021. In addi-
verify the bearing temperature remains at tion, it may make sense to determine the
a safe margin below the layer minimum minimum ignition temperature of the dust

An effective mechanical integrity

program includes manual or automatic
temperature monitoring of bearings.

ignition temperature (LMIT) of the cloud according to ASTM E1491 for the
powder. LMIT typically is determined by a powder of interest.
laboratory test according to ASTM E2021.
For an automated monitoring system, 3. To protect personnel, the facility and the
maintenance must ensure a high degree community from the effects of an explosion
of reliability. should an explosive rupture of equipment
occur, some processes call for special
2. Poorly maintained equipment in combus- measures to minimize the consequences.
tible dust service may leak or spill powder The options are explosion relief venting,
to the floor and onto equipment surfaces in explosion suppression or explosion
the work area. Besides the obvious hazard containment in a vessel that can withstand
of providing fuel in the form of a combusti- the maximum dust explosion pressure. The
ble dust layer, an additional hazard exists if design of any explosion protection measure
a dust layer accumulates on equipment that (venting, suppression or containment)

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 9

requires appropriate data concerning A dust hazard analysis by competent

the severity of the dust cloud explosion personnel will identify locations where
(maximum explosion pressure and Kst). combustible dust fires and explosions
These data are obtained by performing a could occur. These would include process
laboratory test on a representative dust equipment where dense clouds of dust and
sample in accordance with ASTM E1226. ignition sources could form, and process
The MI program should include regular areas where loss of containment of com-
inspection of explosion vents, quarterly bustible dust from equipment could happen
tests of explosion suppression systems, (or is happening). By focusing on combus-
and periodic checks of vessel integrity tible-dust fire and explosion prevention,
according to recognized and generally a site can much more easily identify and
accepted good engineering practices address equipment and locations needing
(RAGAGEP) such as API 510 and API 570, additional maintenance.
and FM Global Data Sheet 7-43 [1,2,3].
Inspections and non-destructive tests To the extent practical, to prevent release
should be performed by personnel with of combustible dust, set up maintenance
appropriate training and experience, and activities and a maintenance schedule to
at a frequency that would ensure fit-for- ensure the MI of process equipment. In
service performance during the interval some cases, changes in equipment design
between the inspections and tests. or in operating conditions may reduce the
necessity for maintenance. In other cases,
MI program and housekeeping periodic maintenance won’t suffice to pre-
requirements appear in NFPA 652 [4] and vent accumulation of combustible dust
in industry/material-specific standards inside and outside the process equipment.
such as NFPA 654 [5], NFPA 61 [6] and For these cases, implementing an effec-
NFPA 484 [7]. tive housekeeping program is essential.
This may require shutting down equipment
CRUCIAL DIFFERENCE periodically to check for and remove dust
Developing and implementing an effective accumulations inside equipment and con-
MI program for managing combustible-dust necting ductwork.
fire and explosion hazards builds on an
understanding of the maintenance activities Finally, subject any process changes, even
required to minimize such hazards. These if they appear to be insignificant, to a man-
MI activities may differ from ordinary main- agement-of-change process to determine
tenance performed to keep the equipment if the change could increase (or decrease)
operating as designed. the likelihood of ignitable dust clouds. A

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 10

rise in likelihood may require an increase means maintaining a velocity sufficient to

in maintenance effort and more fre- keep the dust from settling and minimizing
quent housekeeping. the number of sharp bends in the ductwork.
The ductwork requires periodic inspection
EQUIPMENT ISSUES for dust accumulation and thorough clean-
Let’s now look at four areas — ductwork, ing (using appropriate tools and methods)
flange and fitting connections, process at intervals determined by the amount of
interlocks and hybrid mixtures — that often accumulation. A check of the velocity with
require attention, and some fixes that effec- an appropriate anemometer provides a
tively address issues identified. level of confidence that the ductwork is

Implementation of a sound mechanical

integrity program starts at the design phase.

Ductwork. Accumulation of combustible performing as designed. You many need to

dust in exhaust ductwork or ductwork rebalance a combustible dust ventilation
connecting equipment can pose a multifac- system to account for changes, e.g., addi-
eted combustible-dust fire and explosion tion of a branch exhaust duct.
hazard. First, the dust accumulation can
be the source of a primary dust explosion Flange and fitting connections. I have seen
under the right conditions; and second, numerous examples of operating equip-
the connecting ductwork can foster a ment visibly leaking large quantities of
secondary explosion by conducting the combustible dust into the surrounding work
flame front and pressure wave from a pri- area. In the worst case, I observed dense
mary explosion. dust clouds. Such issues most commonly
occur at plants that don’t have high stan-
Always keep in mind that implementa- dards of sanitation and housekeeping. In
tion of a sound MI program starts at the one case, a gasket designed to seal two
design phase. Knowing the bulk density of 10-in.-dia. flanges in a combustible dust
the powder that the ductwork will convey transfer line had failed and was replaced by
is important for designing the convey- copper mesh cut to size. Needless to say,
ing system to prevent accumulation. This this seal offered less-than-optimal integrity;

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 11

the flange connection continually leaked where a combustible dust cloud could arise.
powder onto the equipment and floor. The This deficiency typically occurs at sites
solution here was to continuously clean with relatively high turnover of personnel
fugitive dust while the equipment was in responsible for process safety and ones
operation until the plant procured and with relatively low awareness of combusti-
installed a gasket of appropriate material ble dust hazards.
of construction.
At one pharmaceutical plant, a fluid-bed
At a different location, I noticed that the MI granulator was “protected” by quick-acting
of a flange connection was compromised explosion isolation valves in the inlet and
by the deliberate removal of approxi- outlet piping and an explosion-suppressant
mately half the number of bolts that held device. Yet, I couldn’t find any inspection
the flanges together. This reportedly was or maintenance records for this equipment.
done to ease disassembly of the equipment So, I recommended the site contact the
for maintenance. In this case, the nominal vendors of the equipment to ensure that
equipment inspections for sources of fugi- qualified personnel perform inspection and
tive dust obviously weren’t effective. The non-destructive testing of all protective
short-term fix was to stop operation of the devices per RAGAGEP.
equipment until the plant could locate and
install replacements for the missing bolts. Hybrid mixtures. The hazard of hybrid mix-
The longer-term solution recommended tures (i.e., a combustible dust suspended in
to site management involved requiring a flammable liquid vapor) is well known [5].
accountability that flange disassembly Processes with the potential for a hybrid
had taken place per written procedures mixture require considerable analysis at the
and recognizing the increased exposure design stage to discover and address hybrid
of personnel to flash fire and explosion mixture explosion scenarios. Such mixtures
hazards resulting from failure to follow writ- often require layers of protection (preven-
ten procedures. tive and protective measures) against an
explosion that exceed the standard meth-
Process interlocks. I’ve frequently visited ods to reduce the fire and explosion risk
sites with combustible dust processes of the flammable liquid vapor alone or the
that ignore maintenance of safety-related combustible dust alone.
interlocks or assume it’s unnecessary.
Such interlocks include devices such as I led a process hazard analysis team in a
quick-closing valves in transfer piping design-stage review of a batch reaction
and explosion-protection units on vessels process to manufacture a skin care product.

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 12

One step in the process involved introduc- follow the inspections. The RBI approach
ing a raw material into a reaction vessel. utilizes a qualitative or quantitative deter-
The material was a) a combustible dust and mination of risk for a facility’s equipment or
b) wet with aqueous ethanol solvent. The assets. The level of risk drives the allocation
team made numerous recommendations of resources (time and money) to perform
for engineering and procedural controls to RBM activities. The risk determination
minimize the risk of a fire or explosion. Key should be made by a suitably qualified team
recommendations included: of process experts who have comprehen-
• using static dissipative bags to hold and sive knowledge of equipment operating
transfer raw material, with bags grounded conditions and failure modes.
before transfer of material;
• charging raw material to the vessel under A KEY ELEMENT
vacuum through the bottom valve; A sound MI program is an essential compo-
• limiting the batch quantities of flam- nent for effective control of combustible-dust
mable and combustible material in the fire and explosion hazards. Using appropriate
vessel; and process information, material (powder/dust)
• monitoring the temperature inside the combustibility data, and industry standards,
vessel to ensure the mixture remains at a site-specific MI management system can be
least 10°C below the nominal flash point designed and implemented to address these
of the solution. hazards efficiently and effectively with the
resources available.
A relatively recent development in ensuring ROBERT GAITHER is a senior process safety specialist

MI involves risk-based inspections (RBI) and for DEKRA Process Safety, Princeton, N.J. Email him

risk-based maintenance (RBM) actions that

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 13

® ®

Make the Right Moves

With Belt Conveyors
Understand important factors in their selection, design and operation

By Amin Almasi, rotating equipment consultant

any plants require a material han- lubrication system, etc. Even when using the
dling system to transport bulk best technologies and most durable compo-
solids and powders. These solids nents, the overall reliability and availability
may come from stockpiles of material trans- of a single belt conveyor line won’t match
ferred from ship, rail, truck, etc., or directly the availability required for many critical pro-
from process operations (e.g., intermediates cessing units. Therefore, redundancy usually
or finished products). A variety of convey- is essential.
ors can move such solids. However, plants
most commonly select a belt conveyor A single belt conveyor line might suffice for
because of its reliability. The overall mate- some routes, for instance, from the unload-
rial handling system also includes transfer ing system to stockpiles. However, for most
points (or towers), trippers and chutes to services, installing two separate conveyors
discharge materials from one belt conveyer is prudent. For example, recommended
to another or to equipment. practice is to transport material from a
major stockyard into the processing area
A belt conveyor contains many rotating and via a dual conveyor system. Likewise, criti-
vulnerable elements such as a drive system, cal lines, especially those where a conveyor
gear reducer unit, pulleys, idlers, etc. All trip can result in a costly shutdown of a cru-
these components rely on rolling element cial chemical processing unit, demand two
bearings, manufacturer’s standard seal, independent conveyor systems to ensure

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 15

Consider all operating cases and scenarios

when designing and sizing the conveyor.

that a breakdown doesn’t affect flow to possible but requires special design. As a
the unit. rough guide, limit the speed of a conveyor
belt to 3.2 m/s; there are successful high-
THE BASICS speed conveyors but many of them use
A belt conveyor system consists of two special designs. The distance of the belt line
or more pulleys and a belt that rotates including pulleys from the supporting floor
around them. One or two powered (drive) should allow easy maintenance; I generally
pulleys move the belt and the material on recommend a minimum clearance of 800
it forward; the unpowered (idler) pulley mm below the return side of the belt.
maintains tension on the belt. The belt con-
sists of multiple layers of specially selected Consider all operating cases and scenarios
materials. Underlayer(s), called the carcass, when designing and sizing the conveyor. A
provide linear strength and shape, and conveyor should be capable of accepting a
often are made of a woven fabric. The over- 10–15% surge; therefore, power calculations
layer(s), called the cover, typically consist usually incorporate 10–20% surge capacity
of various rubber or plastic compounds for the full length of the conveyor. Carefully
specified to suit the material being handled. check calculations related to all starting/
Unusual applications can call for covers start-up cases, including restart of a fully
composed of more exotic materials. Con- loaded conveyor. The method of restart
veyor belts should be made continuous by and adequacy of power for the restart
hot vulcanizing. Mechanical fastening tradi- of a fully loaded conveyor are important,
tionally was used in some applications but but sometimes overlooked, factors. Each
has caused many operational problems; it is conveyor should be capable of being started
not recommended for modern conveyors. under all load conditions without any slip
occurring between the drive pulley and belt.
As an indication, the maximum inclination
of a belt conveyor should not exceed 15° A common requirement is to limit the max-
to the horizontal. A greater angle might be imum belt tension at normal operating

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 16

condition to around 10–14% of the tensile often stem from fatigue failure; a common
strength of belt to ensure sufficient margin culprit has been a far greater loading on the
for belt mechanical strength. Some spec- shaft than theoretical expectations. Shaft
ifications set the limit at 8% for special deflection usually is limited to a maximum
cases (for instance, for a nylon carcass of 0.05% (1/2,000) of the end disc span and
belt); lower limits might be prudent some- an angular deflection of five minutes at the
times. On the other hand, conveyors have shaft/hub connection.
operated successfully for many years with
tension exceeding 14%. So, higher limits Idlers bear the load of material on the con-
might make sense in some situations. Care- veyor. Idler assemblies should have heavy
fully evaluate and verify each case. The duty construction with roller shells made
starting and braking tensions imposed on from precision-finished steel tube with end
the belt may cause problems over time. discs securely welded to the shells. Limits
usually are specified for the idler diameter
Starting characteristics of the drive unit — e.g., 100, 115, 125 or 150 mm depending on
and the braking effects during deceleration application. Transition idlers at both the head
should be such that the maximum tension and tail end feature an adjustable trough
in the belt is limited to somewhere around angle. Buffer idlers are installed at the mate-
130–150% of the belt tension at normal rial receiving point. Idler spacing on the carry
operating condition. In other words, limit strand should limit the belt sag to the lowest
maximum transient tension to 14–20% of of either 1% of the idler spacing or 1.2 m, and
the tensile strength of belt. Again, these are on the return strand to the lowest of either
rough figures; detailed evaluation may show 2% or 3 m. As a general rule, feed points to
that deviations are acceptable. conveyors need great attention and robust
design because these points must withstand
KEY COMPONENTS great dynamic loads and harsh conditions.
Conveyors commonly use pulley shells, Impact idlers are installed at the skirted feed
end discs and hub assemblies of all welded points of all conveyors; they are spaced at
construction and manufactured from suit- a nominal pitch of 0.3 mm and should be
able grades of carbon or low-alloy steel. Do designed to allow retraction of the idler sup-
not employ pulley shells made from pipe porting base to assist maintenance without
or tubing. The pulley face width usually the need to remove skirt plates or structures
is 50–100 mm wider than the belt. To be in the load area.
on the safe side, the maximum combined
stress in the shell and end discs should not Gear reducer units lower the speed of electric
exceed 20–30 MPa. Reported shaft failures motors driving conveyors. Gears are designed

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 17

for infinite life, with power rating equal to the materials have some time to settle down
full motor rated power multiplied by the rele- into the trough. These belts are concaved to
vant factors, often above 1.25 or 1.35. create a suitable groove or trough for mate-
rial to ride along the conveyor path. This
A backstop device (also known as a hold- allows for high capacity. Self-aligning mech-
back) prevents back moving due to material anisms installed at suitable intervals correct
weight in case of any malfunction or acci- any belt wander. Belts are required to bend
dent such as sudden power failure. This and stretch lengthwise as well as laterally
device usually is fitted to the drive pulley at the end wheels. Carrying idlers come in
shaft extension opposite the drive end; different designs and various trough (or

Bearings cause the most reliability

issues and failures.

it should have the capacity to hold as a groove) angles such as 20°, 30°, 35° and
static load 100% of the stalled torque of the 45° from the horizontal. The most common
electric motor (including a suitable service option has been carrying idlers of three
factor, often 1.4 or 1.5). equal rolls with trough angle of 35°.

Flat belts sometimes are used in material Bearings cause the most reliability issues
handling; they are simple to engineer and and failures. So, all aspects of bearing selec-
probably the most widely used type of tion and sizing demand great care to ensure
conveyor belt for low capacity applications adequate bearing life and reliability. Some
or for short distances. However, they have specifications stipulate a service life of
limited capacity to transport materials and 100,000 hours (say, 10–11 years). Simulating
pose some disadvantages. Obviously a worst possible loadings on each bearing
completely flat belt would not work well for is important. Make allowances for shock
handling granules or powders on any angle loading when calculating the design load on
of incline for a distance; materials would bearings; an impact factor of 1.25 (or more)
spill right off the edges. Trough belts com- usually is needed for calculating bearing
monly are chosen; they are very suitable life. Bearing selection depends on many
for relatively long distance paths where factors such as application, overall loadings,

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 18

etc. Good options for pullies are self-align- lifting the material around 10 m. The selected
ing spherical roller bearings, and for idlers, speed is 3.15 m/s and belt width is 1.8 m. The
deep groove bearings; evaluations may sug- conveyor design features four segments: a
gest choosing other appropriate options. horizontal length; a length with 4.5° inclina-
Another important component is the bear- tion; a third length with 7° inclination; and
ing seal. A poor seal can’t prevent dust and a final horizontal length from which mate-
material from entering the bearing, and rial discharges through a chute. The design
can’t properly manage the grease and lubri- incorporates carrying idlers of three equal
cation in a bearing. A multi-cavity labyrinth rolls with trough angle of 35°. Calculated
seal in conjunction with a rubber lip seal drive force is around 100 kN; estimated shaft
fitted between the labyrinth and bearing power of the drive pulley is about 310 kW
chamber often is a good choice. and the selected electric motor is 450 kW.
Drive pulley diameter and idler diameters are
CASE STUDY 1,300 mm and 160 mm, respectively.
A chemical plant needed a 3,250-t/h belt
conveyor to transfer solids (density of AMIN ALMASI is a rotating equipment consultant based

around 852 kg/m3) a distance of 385 m while in Sydney, Australia. Email him at

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 19

Don’t Blow Your

Safety Rating
Industrial vacuum cleaners should be part of your dust control program

By David Kennedy, Vac-U-Max

weeping or blowing of fugitive dust explosion — so dramatic that it captured
during housekeeping is widely dis- the attention of Congress and led to
couraged by OSHA and the NFPA for bill that directed OSHA to “issue an
almost all industries. Seemingly benign, dusts interim combustible dust rule and an
create an assortment of hazards that include amendment to the Hazard Communication
flying particles that can lead to eye injury, slip Standard (HCS) in 90 days, and a final
hazards and ergonomic injuries. The most rule in 18 months,” according to OSHA’s
serious hazards surrounding the sweeping Combustible Dust: Advance notice of
and blowing of dust threaten lives and include proposed rulemaking.
respiratory ailments and explosion hazards.
The use of vacuums almost always is rec- COMPLIANCE EFFORTS
ommended as a preferred method of With more than 4,900 violations associated
removing fugitive dust. Rather than redis- with OSHA’s Combustible Dust National
tributing dust, industrial vacuum cleaners Emphasis Program (NEP), recent fines at
remove dust, thus reducing or eliminating four companies ranging from $63,000 to
the previously mentioned hazards. $137,000, and increasing local television
coverage of combustible dust violations, it
Certainly, the most dramatic hazard is clear that OSHA is serious about enforc-
associated with dust is secondary ing current standards.

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 20

There is no single standard, or one industrial

vacuum cleaner, that can meet the
requirements for all combustible dusts.

In response to OSHA’s NEP, many facility to sift through, are noted clearly in OSHA’s
and safety managers have revamped their Safety and Health Information Bulletin
housekeeping practices and added indus- (SHIB) entitled Combustible Dust in Indus-
trial vacuum cleaners approved for use in try: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of
Class II, Div. 2 areas to mitigate the possi- Fire and Explosions.
bility of secondary explosions caused by
fugitive dust. Because OSHA is taking strong enforce-
ment actions to address combustible dust
However, of the 1,000+ inspections that hazards, facilities must make reasonable
OSHA has completed, only 18% to 22% of efforts to mitigate those hazards as well as
the facilities demonstrated compliance with fully understand the OSHA requirements
OSHA requirements. and documentation referencing dust haz-
ards and compliance.
“It can sometimes be tough for facilities,”
says David Kennedy, business develop- According to the status report, housekeep-
ment manager for Vac-U-Max’s Industrial ing ranked second in citations under the
Vacuum Cleaning Division. “They may have NEP “with respect to combustible dust-re-
gotten approval from the authority having lated hazards.” In addition to accumulations
jurisdiction (AHJ), but OSHA can still come of combustible dust being prevalent among
in and fine them if they deem that the facil- the violations, blowing dust with an air com-
ity doesn’t meet up to combustible dust pressor and not using electrical equipment
standards.” that was designed for hazardous (classi-
fied) locations also were among the top
CURRENT AND violations related to combustible dust-re-
Although it can be argued that current
OSHA standards are ambiguous — hence There is no single standard, or one
OSHA’s proposed rulemaking on combusti- industrial vacuum cleaner, that can meet
ble dust — the standards, however daunting the requirements for all combustible dusts.

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 21

Companies really need someone who has Paragraph further states, “Blow-
intimate knowledge of how chemicals react downs using compressed air or steam shall
in certain environments and is experienced be permitted to be used for cleaning inac-
in NFPA standards to help them choose the cessible surfaces or surfaces where other
right combustible-dust vacuum cleaner. methods of cleaning result in greater per-
sonal safety risk. Where blowdown using
Although OSHA’s 1910.22 has no specific compressed air is used, the following pre-
wording that addresses fugitive dust specifi- cautions shall be followed:
cally, the status report states, “housekeeping
standard at 29 C.F.R. 1910.22 not only applies (1) Vacuuming, sweeping, or water wash-
to typical housekeeping hazards but also down methods are first used to clean
applies to dust accumulation hazards.” surfaces that can be safely accessed prior
to using compressed air.
Other standards and publications, such as the
Dust Control Handbook for Industrial Minerals Dust accumulations in the area after
Mining and Processing, OSHA’s Grain Han- vacuuming, sweeping, or water wash-
dling Facilities Standard or the Mine Safety down do not exceed the threshold
and Health Act regulations for coal mines, do dust accumulation.
address fugitive dust and suggest that oper-
ations “eliminate the use of compressed-air (3) Compressed air hoses are equipped
jets to clean accumulated dust from the with pressure relief nozzles limiting the dis-
equipment or clothing and substitute a charge gauge pressure to 30 psi (207 kPa)
vacuum cleaning system” and “use a vacuum in accordance with the OSHA requirements
cleaning system to clean spills and dust accu- in 29 CFR 1910.242(b), “Hand and Portable
mulations. Avoid brooms and shovels.” Powered Tools and Equipment, General.”

Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, OSHA’s (4) All electrical equipment potentially

SHIB recommends vacuum cleaning as the exposed to airborne dust in the area meets,
preferred first defense method for con- as a minimum, the requirements of NFPA
trolling fugitive dust. (See, “Combustible 70; NEMA 12 as defined by NEMA 250,
Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating Enclosures for Electrical Equipment; or
the Effects of Fire and Explosions”.) the equivalent.

In the NFPA 654 (2017) standard, para- (5) All ignition sources and hot surfaces
graph states, “Vacuuming shall be capable of igniting a dust cloud or dust layer
the preferred method of cleaning.” are shut down or removed from the area.”

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 22

INDUSTRIAL VACUUM SYSTEMS Those shop-type vacuums are no

With so many standards advocating the comparison to industrial vacuum cleaners
use of vacuum cleaners in the housekeep- that have five times the suction power
ing process, it is surprising to find so few than commercial or personal-use shop-
being used in facilities, especially as the first type vacuums.
air-operated industrial vacuum cleaner was
developed in 1954 specifically to prevent Air-powered industrial vacuum cleaners
dust explosions in textile mills. (Figure 1) that meet NFPA 77 requirements
for groundings and bonding also meet the
However, when most people think of definition of an “intrinsically safe system”
vacuum cleaners in an industrial setting, because they do not use electricity and do
they often think of shop-type vacuums that not generate any heat from operation.
they have in their garages. Sometimes facil-
ities have attempted to use those types of Implementing industrial vacuum cleaners is
vacuums and find that they not only create one of the most cost-effective methods to
sparking hazards but also are ineffective handle fugitive dust and avoid some of the
at sucking up fine dust particles or heavy most cited OSHA violations regarding com-
materials and often create their own dust bustible dust as well as to protect facilities
clouds when operating. from catastrophic dust explosions.


Figure 1. These compressed-air driven vacuums require no electricity that could generate sparks
and are ATEX tested and certified.

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 23

Three recent dust explosions — two out-
side the United States and one in Douglas
County, Oregon — that killed a total of 19
people and injured 53 serve as a reminder
that secondary dust explosions are more
destructive than primary explosions. The
reason for this is increased concentrations
of dispersed combustible dust that is acti-
vated from the initial explosion.

Beyond creating dust clouds that have the

potential to ignite, sweeping or blowing
dust during housekeeping routines causes
powders to become suspended and settle
in hard-to-reach areas, including beams
and walls or areas that are hidden behind CENTRAL VACUUM CLEANING
Figure 2. System for continuous dust control
equipment or in very small spaces that may helps reduce the possibility of dust explo-
be inaccessible during daily housekeep- sions as well as respiratory, slip and ergo-
nomic hazards.
ing routines.

The accumulation of combustible dust in chemicals that have such wide-ranging

areas such as this are among some of the reactions — it never gets boring. Some
most cited violations by OSHA. The use of chemicals don’t get wet with water; in fact,
industrial vacuum cleaners in hazardous they can even become more flammable
location areas not only removes dust parti- when exposed to water. We are working
cles as small as 1 micron but, when part of a on an application that is a waste product
regular housekeeping routine, minimizes the of three different chemicals. There is no
amount of dust that can collect in hard-to- name for this chemical, but we are helping
reach areas. Reducing the amount of dust our client deal with the explosive nature of
that is suspended in the air leads to lower this waste.
housekeeping costs because fewer labor-
hours are required for the task. Using industrial vacuum cleaners (figure
2) to reduce the amount of combustible
The business of working with powders is powder that is suspended in the air not only
fascinating. We work with so many different mitigates the possibility for dust explosions

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 24

When dusts hang in the air

for longer periods, they can
exacerbate respiratory threats.

but also can lead to a better respiratory Silica, of course, is only one of the powders
environment for workers, reduce slip haz- that pose respiratory threats to workers.
ards and even prevent back injuries caused To combat those, Vac-U-Max provides a
by cleaning heavy dusts. second HEPA filter rated 99.97% on particle
size to 0.3 microns.
ERGONOMIC HAZARDS Fugitive dust and debris are housekeeping
Some powders, such as silica, when blown issues that plague most industries. Working
with air compressors, have the ability to with a vacuum cleaner manufacturer that
hang in the air for days. Others, such as is intimate with chemical characteristics
graphite, are slippery; and, some are very produces the best outcome for facilities
heavy, like cement that can weigh 100 lb/ combating fugitive dust. Most vacuum
ft , or even steel shot that weighs 250 lb/ft ,
3 3
cleaning systems used to combat fugitive
both of which can cause back injuries when dust are considered capital expenditures
sweeping them. and can be purchased as pre-engineered
solutions designed for specific powder char-
When dusts hang in the air for longer acteristics. By working with knowledgeable
periods, they can exacerbate respiratory cleaning system manufacturers, facilities
threats. Silica exposure can lead to can be brought into compliance not only for
silicosis, a lung disease caused by explosion hazards but for other dust- and
continued inhalation of siliceous minerals debris-related housekeeping issues that pose
that are prevalent in glass, brick, cement, respiratory, slip and ergonomic hazards.
asphalt, ceramic and metal fabrication
industries in which sand is used as a DAVID KENNEDY is business development manager at

component or for blasting, as well as in Vac-U-Max. He can be reached at davidkennedy@vac-

tunneling operations.

Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 25

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Powder eHANDBOOK: Preempt Powder Problems 26