Dust collection is an essential part of any industry that processes raw materials, especially if it produces combustible dust. Many woodworking, grain processing, and metal manufacturing facilities install dust collection systems to keep the premises clean and protect property and personnel from hazardous situations like dust fires and explosions.

While they play a critical role in workplace safety, dust collectors also pose a fire risk. Those who are familiar with the Fire Triangle know that there are three elements which must be present for a fire to occur. These are: 

  • Fuel
  • Oxygen
  • Heat

Dust collectors collect fuel on a regular basis: they’re constantly pulling combustible dust off the tables, floors and fixtures. As they suck in the dust, they also bring in oxygen at a high velocity, which means air is constantly circulating through the system. If heat is also generated, the could result in a fire. 

How can heat be created in a dust collector?

Depending on the industry, there are several things that can produce sufficient heat to cause a fire. In a metalworking or automotive plant, for example, sparks generated by welding or cutting machines can be pulled into the dust collector, where they may hit the filter media and ignite. Sawmills and paper mills face similar risks. Even an ember from a carelessly discarded cigarette can trigger a series of events that lead to a dust fire and potentially an explosion.

Are handheld fire extinguishers enough?

Although many businesses use handheld fire extinguishers, this common firefighting tool carries its own potential risks. When you’re manually fighting a dust collector fire, you need to shut the machine down and wait the recommended amount of time (typically 30 seconds) before opening it to access the burning interior. However, doing this can allow more oxygen into the system and create a larger fire, leading to employee injury and equipment damage.

The benefits of an automatic fire suppression system

When you have an automatic fire suppression system in place, no employee needs to try extinguishing a dust collector fire themselves. As soon as the fire is detected, the system releases a suppression agent and puts it out before an explosion can occur. If you have explosion protection in place, this suppression system can also eliminate any residual fire after an event takes place. Your employees, equipment, and facility are safe. At VeriCUT Inc., we can help you increase safety and efficiency by installing a downdraft table and dust collector system that eliminates dust, smoke and fumes and prevents dust fires from escalating to deflagration stage. We serve a variety of industrial applications, so contact us to learn more.