Dust Explosion Info
Dust Explosion Info is an information centre for Engineers, Safety Professionals and anyone involved with the potential hazard of dust
explosions. The website is an excellent starting point for those wanting to know more about explosions; the physical characteristics of a dust
explosion, the necessary conditions for an explosion to occur, potential ignition sources, dust explosion statistics, dust explosion prevention and
dust explosion protection. Links to further information, books and design standards are provided to assist in a greater understanding of the
subject and describe the simple measures that can be put in place to reduce the risk to factory workers.
Imperial Sugar Dust Explosion, 2008
The dust of many materials in everyday use such as coal, wood, cork, grain, starch, sugar, certain metals, some dyes and intermediates, and
many plastics, can form explosive dust clouds. Explosions of such clouds have caused some of the worst industrial accidents.
On February 7, 2008, a huge explosion and fire occurred at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, USA, killing 14 and injuring 38
others (see picture below). Although the exact cause of ignition is unknown, the explosion started in a conveyor running underneath sugar
silos. The primary explosion raised sugar dust that had accumulated on the floors and elevated horizontal surfaces, propagating more dust
explosions through the buildings. Secondary dust explosions occurred throughout the packing buildings, parts of the refinery, and the bulk
sugar loading buildings. The pressure waves from the explosions heaved thick concrete floors and collapsed brick walls, blocking stairwell
and other exit routes. The resulting fires destroyed the packing buildings, silos, palletizer building and heavily damaged parts of the refinery
and bulk sugar loading area.
Most countries have laws that require the occupiers of factories to take steps to prevent and to restrict the spread of dust explosions. For
nearly 20 years, European Directive 99/92/EC (also known as ‘ATEX 137’ or the 'ATEX Workplace Directive’) has set out minimum
requirements for improving the health and safety protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres. The text of the ATEX
directive may be found here ATEX 137.
See also onsite spraying in Slough
Hazardous area classification
should be carried out as an
integral part of risk assessment to
identify places (or areas) where
controls over ignition
sources are needed.
Hazardous places are further
classified into zones which
distinguish between places that
have a high chance of an
explosive atmosphere occurring
and those places where an
explosive atmosphere may
only occur occasionally or in
Wood, coal, grain & sugar all have the potential to explode
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