Housekeeping: Combustible Dust

Workers always should conduct a hazard analysis prior to performing housekeeping activities in areas containing combustible dust.
Hazard analysis involves asking the right questions:
  • Are there low-clearance objects or equipment that con strike my head?
  • Can any part of my body or clothing be caught on an object that could pull me into moving equipment, such as an unguarded shaft?
  • Can I slip or trip on anything that would result in a fall?
  • Can I fall from one level to another?
  • Will I be exposed to respirable dust or high noise levels?
  • Can my eyes be exposed to flying objects or dust?
  • Do potential ignition sources exist in the work area?
Once hazards are identified, seek to eliminate, reduce, or control exposure by:
  • Ensuring that equipment is guarded properly or de-energized and locked and tagged out.
  • Eliminating potential ignition sources.
  • Cleaning up product spills and removing trip hazards.
  • Using scaffolding or long-handled tools to clean hard-to-reach areas.
  • Wearing head protection such as a hardhat or bump cap.
  • Wearing hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs.
  • Wearing a particulate filtering facepiece, tight-fitting half- or full-face, or powered air-purifying respirator.
  • Wearing eye protection, such as dust-tight goggles.
  • Using fall protection when possible.
Traditional broom and shovel methods are still a preferred housekeeping method since they do not place as much dust in suspension compared to the use of compressed air. Regardless of the method used, housekeeping efforts should focus on hard-to-reach areas such as upper surfaces including walls, spouting, and ledges.
Dust accumulations on top of equipment bearing must also be removed routinely. If the bearing overheats, it can ignite suspended dust or the layer of dust covering the bearing.
This may occur in:
  • Bucket elevator head and boot areas.
  • Particulate size-reduction equipment such as screeners, cleaners, and shakers.
  • Blenders.
  • Belt-driven fans.

Source: Joe Mlynek is president of Progressive Safety Services LLC, Gates Mills, OH;; and content creation expert for Safety Made Simple, Inc., Olathe, KS;


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