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If you work with materials that create a fine powder or dust, you should be aware of the combustible hazards and take steps to prevent an explosion.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines combustible dust as any fine material that has the ability to catch fire and explode when mixed with air. This list includes, but is not limited to, most solid organic materials (like sugar, flour, grain, wood), many metals and plastics, some chemicals, and carbon-based products like charcoal, peat and corn.
Manufacturers of these products are typically equipped with specialized dust extraction systems. Dust accumulation must be monitored and safely removed before it has a chance to build up and become a hazard.
In certain concentrations, dust from these products, when combined with air, needs only static electricity to ignite.
In Burns Lake, BC, two employees of a sawmill that milled Bark Beetle-killed trees, died and 20 others were injured in January of 2012 when compacted wood dust caught fire from a conveyer belt, igniting airborne wood dust, creating a powerful explosion with tragic consequences.
August 8, 2014 marks 11 years since an explosion and fire in a grain elevator rocked the south end of Halifax. Fortunately, there were no injuries in the blast, but 400 people were evacuated from their homes.
To learn more about the nature of this hazard and how to prevent dust from igniting, please review the following articles:
Examples of combustible dust materials: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/combustibledustposter.pdf