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Tips to Prevent Dust Explosion in the Food Industry

All food and beverage plant owners are well aware of the danger of dust explosion, but these hazards still take place. Unfortunately, out of all reported cases of industrial dust explosions, almost 25% occur in the food and beverage industry. Some of the readers may still remember the sugar dust explosion that resulted in several fatalities and injuries at the plant of Imperial Sugar Company in the USA.

In order to prevent dust explosion in the food industry, it is important to identify the factors that lead to dust explosion.

What is Dust Explosion?

Dust explosions are the results of the build-up of combustible dust in the air, leading to the formation of a strong pressure wave.  In a variety of workplaces, this is considered to be a deadly hazard.  For a dust explosion to occur, several factors must be present at a time. These factors include

  • Right concentration level of the combustible dust
  • Oxygen
  • A source of ignition
  • An enclosed space

As particulates become finer, combustible dusts become more dangerous.  With a high surface area to volume ratio, these dusts have high combustibility. A dust explosion is possible when oxygen within a certain concentration range combines with these dusts.

Under these conditions, just an ignition source is sufficient for an explosion to take place. This source can be a spark, a cigarette, an overheated wheel bearing, or anything similar. Some combustible dusts are also capable of self-igniting under specific circumstances.

What Causes Dust Explosion in a Food Processing Unit?

In the form of fine dust, many common foodstuffs such as cocoa powder, starch, sugar, and flower are highly combustible. In the presence of favourable conditions, just a spark or hot surface can lead to ignition of the dust and explosion. In the food industry, the factors responsible for dust explosion are

  • Combustible food dust present in the air
  • Dispersion of food dust particles
  • An enclosure or closed structure
  • Presence of oxygen for sustaining the fire
  • Presence of a hot surface or spark

Ingredients Responsible for Dust Hazards:

In order to minimise the risk of dust explosion in your food processing plant, it is important to identify the ingredients that can potentially cause these hazards.  Unfortunately, this list is long and includes animal feed, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda, coffee, nut dust, flour, pollen, powdered flavourings, processed soybean, starch, sugar, powdered milk, nutritional powders, etc.

Preventing Dust Explosion:

In order to prevent dust explosion, it is extremely important to implement dust control measures in certain hotspots in the facility. There is always a risk of dust building up in places where pneumatic or mechanical transfers of finished products or powdered ingredients take place. These systems must be designed in a way that avoids potential blockages and internal accumulation of the material handled.

It is also possible for airborne dust particles to escape while adding powdered ingredients by hand. Make use of a dust collection system so that airborne particles are not able to settle on plant surfaces. Ideally, these systems should be placed in the areas where dust causing materials are packed, transferred, or added.

At Lumix Procut, we provide state-of-the-art processing equipment and machinery solutions for the food processing industry. Please contact our experts to prevent dust explosion in your facility.