Deadly dust accumulation can be prevented through regular maintenance

Deadly dust accumulation can be prevented through regular maintenance

Although dust may be tiny and appear as a small concern compared to larger hazards, the presence of combustible and other dangerous dusts in facilities can lead to serious risks that could be detrimental to any operation.

However, with the right indoor air quality control system – and a good plant maintenance plan to go along with it – these risks can be substantially lowered, Plant Services reports. 

According to the news source, when combustible dusts collect in plants and factories, it can lead to explosions that cripple productivity or even cause workplace fatalities. When dust combines with aerosols and floats in the air, it can be extremely dangerous, due to the chemical relationship between flammable materials and oxygen. 

Suspended dust is also harmful to breathe, and can distribute dangerous chemicals, like lead, around the facility. Even the slightest movement of air can be a hazardous situation for both workers and assets. 

“Dust impacts people, who are forced to breathe unhealthy air,” said Charles Dix, engineer and co-owner of Carolina Hydro Technologies. “Also, dust collects in motors, and a lot of electrical cabinets are not airtight. It can have an effect on product quality and the general housekeeping quality of a plant.”

The media outlet states that airborne dusts are a rising concern among plant managers because of their close ties to lung diseases. Dust has also has been linked to cancer, asthma, allergic alveolitis and irritation.

“Dusty atmospheres can cause a range of respiratory health effects, from minor irritations resulting from exposures to grain or wood dusts to much more serious lung damage from contaminants such as silica,” said Richard De Angelis, program information specialist at Occupational Safety and Health Administration  (OSHA). 

OSHA warns that any combustible materials can burn extremely quickly if it has been diminished into a fine particle. Even materials that are not typically flammable can burst into flame when in dust form.

Failing to properly address indoor air quality not only puts workers at risk, but can significantly affect asset uptime, lower productivity and reduce the effectiveness of facility maintenance, the media outlet stated.

Travis Haynum, director of business develop and technical sales at United Air Specialists, stated that accumulating dust can lead to poor product quality, and can also increase wear and tear on components of assets, such as bearings and other moving parts. This will lead to more frequent maintenance and a lower overall service life of the asset. 

“All of these consequences lead to increased operating costs for the plant,” Haynum said.

Andrew Stewart, senior manager of sustainability at Grainger, said dust can have a profound impact on all types of workplaces, too. Office working areas, for example, are at risk when dust travels through air intake systems and is distributed to other parts of the plant. 

OSHA’s inspections include looking for combustible dust, and having the right documentation can expedite this process if an inspection is necessary. 

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