A dust explosion can be defined as a very fast combustion of fine particles of substances suspended in air. It can take place where there are high concentrations of dispersed powdered combustible in the atmosphere or any other gaseous medium, for example oxygen. Dust explosion pose a frequent risk in different operations such as in grain elevators, coal mines and other areas. In his Overview of dust explosibility characteristic, Keneth L. Cashdollar argues that dust explosion can also be used in several areas. He says that they can be used by; pyrotechnicians, special effects artists and filmmakers because of their ability to be contained in certain carefully controlled environment. Increase in dust explosion accidents and their side effects has highlighted an urgent need to shift focus on an understandable methods used to prevent the incidents. Incidents of combustible dust are dangerous but very regular in their occurrence. Some of the areas that these cases have been reported include; West Virginia, Gallatin (the incident of the combustible iron powder), Foxconn Chendu In China, where there was an airborne aluminum dust. Almost all the incidents could have been parried if the risks were identified early enough and subsequent measures put in place to curb the dangers. There are already appropriate standards put in place to be followed and they are frequently updated in order to incorporate the ever dynamic changes in science and technology in the protection of dust explosion. The development of these standards has come from far, but has also pose a big challenge as a result of the diversity of the dusts, the size of the particles and their properties, equipping of the facilities and the processes involved.
The main aim of this paper is to offer an overview of the mechanisms with which dust explosion originates and the methods that can be used to prevent them and to mitigate their dangers. This paper is for general use in the industries. There are other resources that are readily available for specialists and skillful people in dust explosion research and loss prevention in industries. Another aim is to merger the fundamentals of causes of dust explosion, their prevention, together with mitigation with the concepts of inherent safety, safety culture and safety management system. Paul R. Amyotte argues that, it is very important to put technical knowledge in a context of demonstrable commitment to dust explosion risk reduction.
Another aim of this paper is to show how important it is to have a proper understanding of dust explosion phenomena and how significant it is to give a careful consideration to relevant aspects of dust science and technology.
This paper is also meant to provide very important information on the explosiveness and the ignitability of dust clouds, information that can be used to enhance and improve safety in companies that produces process, make use of, or transport combustible dusts from one point to another. Dust explosion has the following requirements; a combustible dust, means of dispersion in the air, a higher concentration above the threshold, availability of an energetic ignition source and some given confinement.
Risk assessment of dust explosion can be done in a process of 5 steps. These steps are as listed below;
Identification of the hazards
Here, a list is made of all material that are used in the industry that may create a dust cloud, either during the process of through any other means.
Decide on who is at risk
At this stage, put into consideration the outcome of an explosion. Find out whether it will spread to other parts of the factory or whether it will be confined within the origin.
Risk evaluation and precautions
In general, the results of dust explosion are very severe. These can be; plant damage and extensive building, fatalities, loss of production, serious injuries, among others. In a simple term, risk assessment must undertaken to prevent the explosion from occurring or to mitigate the effects of the explosion. There are many methods that can be put in place to prevent explosion, such as; using a flammable material instead of a non-flammable material and prevention of the formation of an explosive condition or environment. This can be achieved through reduction of oxygen or by reduction of the formation of cloud below the threshold..
In some cases, it maybe advisable to stop the usage of a given piece of plant or a certain operation until the time when the safety issues are fully resolved.
R.K. Eckhoff asserts that reduction of the risks can be achieved through; reducing the dust cloud quantity to a minimum concentration, elimination of numerous ignition sources to its minimum, provision of protective equipment, provision of adequate training for workers, inclusive of the findings of the assessment and maintenance of processes in an efficient state, in proper order of working and good repair.
According to Tasneem Abbasi in his Journal of Hazardous Materials, explosion protection can be achieved through several ways, some of which are listed below; installation of equipments for suppressing explosion, installation of explosion relief and discharge to safe areas, usage of explosion containment and installation of equipments for explosion isolation.
Recording of findings and their implementations
The risk assessment finding are recorded and shared with the concerned bodies or staff. In the records, the following should be shown; the record must satisfy that a proper check was done, there must be consideration of who might be at risk, it must show that significant hazards have been dealt with, considering the number of persons who might be involved and it must satisfy that the precaution are reasonable and the remaining risk is at minimum.
Review of the risk assessment and updates
Some plants and processes remain as they were before. If changes are made to the process plant, they must be documented and assessed in relation to their results on the risk assessment. This applies regardless of whether the changes are physical or operational.
In conclusion, dust explosion has occurred in several industries, some of which have been mentioned in the first paragraph. While the hazards may exist for many dusts handle in industries, the risk of explosion depends on the consequence severity consideration such as maximum pressure of explosion and the maximum rise rate of the explosion pressure.
Amyotte, P.R., & Khan, F.I. (2002). An inherent safety framework for dust explosion prevention and migration. In I. Sochet (Ed.), Proc. 4th Int. Symp. On hazards, prevention and mitigation of industrial explosions, France, Oct. 21-25, 2002. Journal of Physics- Proceedings, 1(Pr7), 189-196.
Eckhoff, R. K.(2003). Dust Explosions in the Process Industries, 3rd ed. Gulf Professional Publishing/Elsevier; Boston,
Cashdollar, K. L. (1994). Overview of dust explosibility characteristic. Process Safety Progress, 13, 139-145.
Abbasi, T.; Abbasi, S. A. j.(2007). Hazard Mater, 10(1-2), 7.
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