Preventing Grain Dust Explosions

Moving grain generates dry dust and that dust is highly combustible if these five ingredients come together: oxygen, a confined space, an ignition source, dispersion, and a fuel source which is the grain dust. Sparks from sources such as overheated bearings, static electricity or rubbing pulleys are enough to cause an explosion.

Kingsly Ambrose is an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University. He says to help mitigate the threat, clean up settled dust immediately, and keep equipment maintained.

"If your equipment has moving parts in the dusty processing job, if you keep that equipment in great working condition, we can avoid the ignitions. Most of the time," says Ambrose. "Even the dust collection systems should be maintained regularly."

All employees and contractors need to be trained. Ambrose says in many cases, they’re not aware that grain dust explodes.

"It’s very important that we keep on training the workers so that they’re aware of this danger of dust explosions. And the other group of workers are the contractors who might come for some temporary jobs like welding work or some small maintenance work," he says. "They should also be trained on dust explosion accidents before they start working in the facility."

Managing grain dust and maintaining equipment is not a once-a-year task. It needs to be an on-going process.

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