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Frequently Asked Questions about Controlling Dangerous Dusts
Here are the most frequently asked questions about controlling dangerous dusts in order to maintain a safe work environment. BY BRIAN RICHARDSON
32 Occupational Health & Safety | MAY 2020
Dust particles become airborne during in- door metalworking processes like welding and plasma cutting. They also become air- borne during the manufacturing and pro-
cessing of food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other dry products. Some of these particles are toxic and/ or combustible, so it is important to shield workers, products and expensive equipment from them. Here are the most frequently asked questions about con-
trolling dangerous dusts in order to maintain a safe work environment.
What makes a dust dangerous?
When products are manufactured indoors, small particles often become airborne and have the poten- tial to do serious harm to people, products, equip- ment and/or facilities. Dusts that are combustible can cause fires and explosions. Other dusts can con- tain ingredients that are toxic when swallowed or in- haled. Others can cross-contaminate other products that are manufactured in the same facility. When combustible dusts are collected from the air into a dust collection system, the system itself can be a source of combustible dust explosions if not properly protected. Besides being required to do so by OSHA, companies are morally obligated to protect workers from these hazards.
Which industries most often deal
with dangerous dusts?
Many industries have combustible dust, but the fol- lowing are at most risk: metalworking facilities, weld- ing shops, woodworking shops, chemical processors, food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies that make solid dose products (tablets).
Which agencies regulate dangerous dusts?
OSHA is ultimately responsible for protecting em- ployees from dangerous dusts. However, the Na- tional Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) plays a major role in recommending standards and guidelines for managing combustible dusts. If manufacturers don’t follow these guidelines, they can be fined by OSHA, face legal scrutiny and risk a damaged reputation, not to mention harming their employees.
What are common dust hazards
in the food processing industry?
The biggest threats are occupational exposure and combustible dust explosions. Dust can cause derma- titis and allergic reactions. More seriously, dust parti- cles can become embedded in the lungs and can cause respiratory problems like asthma and lung cancer. In addition, many solid food ingredients are combusti- ble, including sugar, starch, spices, proteins and flour. Lastly, food particles can damage other food products. For example, particles that contain gluten or peanuts could cross-contaminate products that are supposed to be gluten free, causing severe allergic reactions for

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