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C&W DustTech / Resources  / Content  / DustTech Talk  / Dust Collection Safety: Key Steps to Safeguard Your Operation

Dust Collection Safety: Key Steps to Safeguard Your Operation

Dust Collection Safety 101: Understand Your Fugitive Dust

Effective dust collection is an integral part of any operation or process that generates fugitive dust. With regulatory bodies establishing stricter emission guidelines, the need to identify and reduce worker exposure to harmful dust has never been more crucial.

As a champion of clean air technologies, we recognize the importance of safeguarding your equipment and protecting employees from unsafe working environments. Here are three key steps you should take to control fugitive dust to protect your people, your plant and the environment.

Know Your Dust

No matter how harmless your operation’s dust may seem, understanding the characteristics of your dust is vital to ensure operational safety. Many dusts can be combustible or can cause health issues if not properly controlled. Because each type of dust is different, it has unique safety requirements, regulations and equipment specifications. It’s important to analyze specific dust characteristics such as particle shape, gravity, size, abrasiveness and moisture level. This will help you determine the best dust collection system and filter media for your operation.

Answer the following questions in partnership with a dust collection expert to better understand your dust.

Size: What is the size of the dust particles being captured; fine or large?

Chemistry: What is your dust combustion risk?

Moisture: Is there any moisture present in the dust?

Know Your Regulations and Compliance Standards

Organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Association (MSHA) and the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) issue industry standards and guidelines to ensure maximum workplace safety.

Through OSHA, employers must comply with federal and state laws to set personal protective equipment (PPE) and dust collection guidelines. OSHA has specific regulations for most types of dust, including silica dust. The U.S. Department of Labor’s MSHA has also launched new enforcement initiatives to better protect the nation’s miners from health hazards resulting from overexposure to harmful dust.

The NFPA is an international organization dedicated to preventing property damage or death from fire, electrical and other related hazards. There are several NFPA standards you need to be aware of if your facility handles combustible dust. The best place to start is NFPA 652, the standard that covers the requirements for managing combustible dust fires and explosions across industries, processes and dust types.

One of the key requirements of NFPA 652 is completing a Dust Hazard Analysis. Completing this analysis helps you better understand your dust and ensures that your dust collection system is equipped with all necessary safety features to prevent explosion.

Mitigate Silica Hazards

Each year, workplace illnesses claim the lives of thousands of U.S. workers, and respirable crystalline silica – or silica dust – is a leading cause. Employees who inhale crystalline silica particles are at risk of developing serious diseases. Over time, these particles can cause life-threatening diseases, including:

Silicosis, an often-fatal lung disease.

Lung cancer.

Kidney disease.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) for Respirable Crystalline Silica

As of 2017, OSHA guidelines have established a revised PEL limit to worker silica dust exposure. The limit is now set at 50 micrograms per cubic feet of air, which is averaged over an eight-hour workday.

OSHA continues to set standards to protect workers from exposure to silica dust. To help meet the general industry standards, OSHA has provided a list of requirements:

Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to – if it is at or above 25 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour day.

Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour day.

Limit workers’ access to areas where they could be exposed above the PEL.

Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL.

Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers.

Train workers on operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.

Similarly, MSHA’s new silica enforcement initiative contains requirements that include:

Spot inspections at coal, metal and nonmetal mines with a history of repeated silica overexposures to closely monitor and evaluate health and safety conditions.

Increase oversight and enforcement of known silica hazards with previous citations for exposing miners to silica dust levels over the existing permissible exposure limit of 100 micrograms.

Expand silica sampling at metal and nonmetal mines to ensure inspectors’ samples represent the mines, commodities and occupations known to have the highest risk for overexposure.

Remind miners about their rights to report hazardous health conditions, including any attempt to tamper with the sampling process.

By following OSHA and MSHA standards and guidelines, you can help keep your workers safe from the hazards of crystalline silica.

Ensure a Safe, More Efficient Operation

Simply controlling dust isn’t always enough. While the critical steps above are a great start to ensure a safer operation, the right dust collection system will help you maximize operational efficiency, exceed regulatory requirements and safeguard your employees from harmful environments.

Contact THE dust collection experts today and equip your operations for success tomorrow – and for the future.

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