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The DuroVac DHA handbook for NFPA compliance

Understand the basics of NFPA 652, dust hazard analyses (DHAs), and how industrial vacuums help

Anh-Tai Vuong
Written By Anh-Tai Vuong President, Corporate Sales & Business Development
May 2020

The deadline has passed: your Dust Hazard Analyses (DHAs) were due September 7, 2020. DHAs are all about keeping your manufacturing plant and workers safe from fires and explosions caused by dust. If you're new to the concept or are still catching up on your DHA, we're here to get you up to speed.

Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of everything you need to know, from the basics of the NFPA rules to combustible dust hazard reduction.

What is NFPA 652 all about?

If you need to understand how regulatory bodies classify dust-related fire, flash-fire and explosion risks, look no further than NFPA 652: Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust. It outlines a number of rules to keep the agricultural, chemical, metals and similar industries safe from the hazards of combustible dust.

Recent updates to the rule specified a due date of September 7, 2020 to conduct a DHA if your facility handles combustible dust. After that, you must continue to conduct a DHA every five years.

What is combustible dust?

OSHA defines combustible dust as a solid material made of distinct particles that present a fire or deflagration hazard when they’re suspended in the air. Given the right ignition source and environmental conditions, around 70 percent of dusts can create an explosion.

Figure 1: The "dust explosion pentagon," or five conditions needed for a dust explosion.

If you’re not sure whether your plant generates combustible dust, get your materials tested at a laboratory. The DHA will not test your materials for combustibility, so it’s your responsibility to find out beforehand.

What is the point of a DHA?

If you’re doing a dust hazard analysis, you’ve determined the presence of combustible dust in your facility, which means you’re already aware of potential hazards. A DHA highlights specific conditions that increase the risk of fire, deflagration or explosion in your plant.

Who can perform a DHA?

You can contact an independent team of consultants with experience in these types of assessments, but you don’t have to. The DHA can be performed by anyone who has done one in the past and understands the process. If you have someone like that in-house, you could have them pull together a DHA team.

What happens after I do the DHA?

That depends on what the DHA uncovers! Once you are aware of the risks, NFPA 652 requires you to create an actionable plan towards mitigating them. That could mean making changes to the layout of your plant, investing in safer equipment or adjusting your housekeeping procedures.

After that, you’ll have to keep up with your DHAs every five years.

25-75 hp Industrial Vacuums for heavy material.
PowerLift® Series Max Suction | Material Disposal

Designed to collect material directly into a sealed roll-forward hopper for easy material disposal.

How can I improve my dust cleaning process?

It depends. Are you currently using a shop-vac? The old-fashioned broom and shovel combo? Or are you relying too often on expensive vac trucks?

Commercial vacuums and cleaning by hand aren’t sufficient in most cases, but when NFPA compliance is at stake, they’re downright dangerous. Shop vacs are a little better at spot cleaning, but they aren’t equipped to handle large volumes or dense materials.

Brooms and compressed air might temporarily clear one surface, but they only end up pushing dust elsewhere in the facility. That creates a dust cloud, which is one of the conditions that can lead to an explosion as per the dust explosion pentagon (Figure 1). In many regions, depending on the type of facility, the use of compressed air is prohibited for that very reason.

Outsourced vacuum trucks are almost the opposite problem — they can handle tons of volume, but they aren’t easy to maneuver or get into tight spots. And when you use them often, the cost really adds up.

An industrial vacuum system hits that sweet spot you’re looking for. The DuroVac line is particularly easy-to-use, has plenty of suction power, and is tough enough to handle anything from light, fluffy powders to heavy and dense chunks of material.

It’s also relentlessly durable, saving you money on maintenance and repairs in the long run.

Wait, how does it save me money?

Proper equipment maintenance is a huge part of NFPA compliance and general plant safety. Industrial vacuums, as we’ve mentioned, make it infinitely easier to keep your plant clean. But not all industrial vacuums are created equal.

Many of them have filters that break within weeks or months, requiring constant replacements. The cost adds up. DuroVac vacuums are known for their longevity, lasting years (sometimes more than 10).

Are industrial vacuums NFPA compliant?

If they are properly equipped, absolutely. A DuroVac rep will always recommend NFPA compliance features if your facility handles combustible dust.

What about explosion protection?

You’re right — there are strategies and equipment out there that can help protect your facility in the event of an explosion or deflagration. It’s important to read up on two types of isolation techniques: passive isolation, which is reactive and comes into play after a fire event, and active isolation, which can detect an event and act accordingly to minimize danger.

Outdoor explosion venting, for example, is considered passive because it vents out excess pressure and flames to a safer area where it can’t harm as many people or devices in your facility. Active isolation techniques can include chemicals, valves or gates that extinguish or stop the spread of flames.

There’s a lot more to be said about isolation devices. If you’d like to know more about how DuroVac vacuums function to isolate explosions, you can check out this handy guide.

What else can I do to stay NFPA compliant?

In general, make sure your equipment is leak-free and your space well-ventilated. It’s always a good idea to implement thorough housekeeping policies with a regular cleaning schedule.

One piece of feedback we often get at DuroVac is that our industrial vacuums are so easy to use, they almost make cleaning enjoyable (if such a thing is possible). Workers much prefer being able to tackle a mess, hassle-free, and quickly get back to whatever they were doing.

With that in mind, a regular cleaning schedule seems much less daunting.

I have more questions!

You’re right to be concerned about the safety and cleanliness of your facility. That’s why we’re here, so give DuroVac a call to discuss your options for an NFPA compliant vacuum.

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