The plastics industry is replete with powders that, if dispersed in air, will form explosible dust clouds. These powders include the molding compounds, resins, ingredients and fillers used throughout the industry. The files of the Chemical Safety Board contain many plastics industry-related dust fires and explosions.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed detailed standards to help industry identify and manage the fire and explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solid; the 2019 Edition of NFPA 652 is the most recently updated standard. Although it may be a fundamental high-level standard in some ways, it places clear obligations on the owner/operators of facilities that handle or process potentially combustible dusts.
NFPA 652 requires the owner/operator of a facility with potentially combustible dust to take responsibility for the following activities:
• Determine the combustibility and explosibility hazards of materials they handle.
• Identify and assess any fire, flash fire and explosion hazards, or Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA).
• Manage the identified fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards.
• Communicate the hazards to affected personnel.
Yet after a company has collected the data, measured dusts for explosion properties in labs and undertaken a DHA at its facility, the requirements of the standard for procedures and training to "manage the identified hazards" and "communicate the hazards" do not always receive sufficient attention. Here, we will review what you need to do after you have the explosion data and have completed your DHA. Incidentally, the steps required under this heading of "management systems" below apply retroactively. You need to do it now, however long your facility has been operating.