Benjamin Franklin was an author, inventor, politician and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He may also have had the uncanny ability to see into the future of the bulk material handling industry.
One of the most quotable figures in history, Franklin once famously said, “Write injuries in dust, benefits in marble.” That particular comment referred to focusing on the positives in life rather than the negatives. But the words “injuries” and “dust” are applicable to industrial material handling operations, which didn’t exist in Ben’s day.
Dusting is one of the most common challenges for bulk material processors, largely due to the safety risks that stem from ineffective dust collection. Identifying the causes of dusting, implementing fixes and understanding the huge impact dusting can have on safety are critical to addressing the issue before it becomes a major problem. Fortunately, finding success in the fight against dusting is achievable with equipment solutions from Hapman.
The Danger is Real
Fully recognizing the dangers of dusting, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues citations for accumulations of combustible dust that exceed 1/32-inch deep (the thickness of a paper clip) and cover at least 5 percent of a room’s total area, or 1,000 square feet. The OSHA includes accumulations on overhead beams, joists, ducts and the tops of equipment when determining the dust coverage area.
Compliance with OSHA regulations is always advisable for any industrial facility, but one word stands out in the preceding paragraph: “combustible.” Airborne dust associated with the movement and handling of materials such as sugar, starch and coal has properties that make it highly flammable, and in many cases, capable of causing an explosion.
Another regulatory agency, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), has recently implemented changes to its 654 Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solid to better assist in the reduction of accidents associated with dusting. Specifically, the standard addresses secondary dust explosions caused by airborne dust or excessive dust accumulations, which have been responsible for much of the damage and many of the injuries resulting from major industrial explosions.
Additionally, employees who work in environments impacted by dusting are far more likely to experience safety concerns from coated surfaces. Airborne dust increases the risks to employees for injuries or other ailments caused by slip-and-fall accidents.
Equipped to Address the Issue
The threat dusting presents should not be taken lightly. Addressing it may appear to be daunting, but you don’t have to go it alone. Hapman offers a variety of equipment that can help mitigate the threat and its impact on an operation. Our recommendations always depend on the specific needs of a particular application, but here are three equipment options that are commonly used to minimize dusting:
Tubular Drag, Flexible Screw and En-Masse conveyor solutions each feature a sealed design and are excellent choices for confining material to the process and eliminating dust. These systems are often even more effective with the introduction of dust hoods and dust collection systems at the entry and exit points along the line.
Central Dust Collection Systems
Comprised of larger, substantial dust collection equipment, these systems are an obvious solution for capturing and removing particulates from the plant environment or larger processes. The primary disadvantage is that these systems remove the material from your process. They are not cost-effective for small operations and may not always adequately capture areas of concentrated dust in far corners of a facility.
These dust collectors are used in two primary scenarios. One is assembled on a hood, which can fit on an existing hopper or can be designed with an integral hopper. When ingredient bags are emptied, this integral dust collector immediately captures the airborne particulates on a cartridge filter. These units perform well with minor ingredient additions to a larger process, or in operations utilizing 20- to 50-lb. bags of material. There are also integral dust collectors for bulk bag unloaders handling 2,000-lb. bags. Equipped with their own filters and bag spouts, these units catch the material and prevent it from seeping out when it is being dumped into the hopper. They also offer the added benefit of reusing expensive material that would be lost in a separate, free-standing collector. Timer-activated solenoid valves release short blasts of compressed plant air inside two cartridge filters, returning the dust build-up on the filter surfaces back into your process. These units are also placed directly on the inlets to other process equipment where it is desired to collect the dust from the unloading of bags.
Dust control and risk mitigation go hand-in-hand for manufacturers who processes dry powders and other bulk materials. Getting a handle on this challenge by implementing some of the innovative safeguards available from Hapman can improve employee safety without diminishing profitability due to worker’s compensation claims and litigation. Because as Benjamin Franklin also said, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”