combustible dust podcast

SonicAire COO and dust safety expert Jordan Newton is interviewed in this Dust Safety Science podcast and answers the following questions:

  • Why should facilities be concerned about dust accumulation?
  • What industries are using fan systems?
  • How do the fans reduce dust build-up?
  • What are other benefits of fan installation?

Many facilities that have an awareness of combustible dust hazards typically address the problem manually. Sometimes these facilities use a Class 2 certified vacuum, which is appropriate, but Jordan said he has also seen some facilities in which people are using a blowdown method to address the problem of combustible dust.

“I have even been in wood plants where I have seen people using backpack-style gas-powered, leaf blowers to blowdown dust. And that’s a scary place to be. You can eliminate that kind of stuff going on in the overhead spaces with the overhead oscillating fans.”

Jordan pointed out that when a vacuum or blowdown method is being used, a person has to get close to the dust to dislodge it. This involves ladders, lifts and scaffolding. Employees have to come in on weekends to do cleaning (and be paid overtime) or the plant has to be shut down temporarily for cleaning. Regardless of how it’s done, the process is expensive, dangerous and cumbersome.

“We are trying to help facilities eliminate (dust from) these overhead spaces,” Jordan said. “So that’s where the fans come into play…. We’ve talked to a lot of folks recently who were referred by their insurance company to come talk to us because their insurers told them, clean up your dust or we’re not going to continue to cover you.”

Importance of Dust Hazard Analysis

Jordan recommends that all facilities get into compliance by doing DHAs (Dust Hazard Analysis). Sweep dust off the floor, clean it off the equipment, and keep the dust out of overhead spaces. Too many workers have assumed that they have a clean plant, only to find out otherwise in a catastrophic manner.

“My advice to the listeners would be to not assume that you’re clean enough and that you don’t have a safety hazard hiding in your overhead area. Do an inspection, see what’s up there. Don’t let ‘out of sight, out of mind’ happen to you.”

How to Prevent Combustible Dust

SonicAire fans act as an air curtain to prevent the dust from settling or accumulating in overhead spaces.

Jordan explains that SonicAire works with customers to custom design a solution that works for the end-user. This includes taking the following factors into account:

  • Areas that generate the most dust
  • Facility processes and operating times
  • The overhead structure and the amount of congestion in the space
  • Environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and electrical classifications

“We’re just looking at everything holistically and making sure the solution works with the process, works with the people in the area.”

Jordan is interviewed by Dr. Chris Cloney (PEng.), managing director and lead researcher at DustEx Research and founder of the Dust Safety Science resource website. Jordan is a featured speaker at the upcoming Digital Dust Safety Conference. His presentation, “Using Fan Systems to Control Fugitive Dust Accumulation,” will address how overhead fan systems can be used to prevent combustible dust from settling out on equipment, rafters and overhead structures in processing operations.