Our company processes wood, could we have combustible dust issues?

When it comes to wood processing, understanding the risks associated with combustible (or explosible) dust is crucial for ensuring the safety of workers and preventing potential disasters at your facility. Combustible dust can be expected in almost all wood processing facilities ranging from sawmills, peeling, to different woodworking processes such as cutting, machining, routing and turning, sanding, using compressed air to blow dust, and as a consequence of poor housekeeping where dust accumulates around equipment, on floors, and in overhead spaces. Installing a new dust collector?…you definitely want to address inspections and whether the unit itself or the processing equipment and vessels upstream present possible ignition sources. Assessing and evaluating these hazards requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account industry standards and guidelines set forth by organizations such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).

OSHA has recognized the dangers posed by combustible dust and has implemented regulations to address this issue. Their Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP), originally initiated in October 2007, provides guidance on identifying, evaluating, and controlling combustible dust hazards in various industries, including wood processing. It was revised again in January of 2023 and remains in effect until OSHA issues a cancellation notice.

The NFPA also plays a vital role in establishing standards for the prevention and protection against fire, deflagration, and explosion. Their standards, such as NFPA 652 – Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, provide valuable information on assessing the risks associated with specific types of dust, including those found in wood processing facilities.

To effectively evaluate combustible dust hazards in your wood processing facility, it is essential to understand the characteristics of your specific dust. Factors such as particle size and shape, moisture content, and chemical composition can significantly impact its combustibility. Therefore, both OSHA and NFPA have set forth guidance that all materials that may be considered combustible should be tested in order to clearly identify and assess the hazard.

Combustible dust testing generally refers to laboratory testing of finely divided combustible particulate solids that may present a combustion/ flash-fire hazard or explosion hazard when suspended in air – or in another oxidizing medium.

By recognizing the importance of evaluating these hazards from an informed perspective guided by industry standards like OSHA’s NEP and NFPA’s guidelines, you can take proactive measures to mitigate risks and create a safer working environment for everyone involved in wood processing operations.

We partner with our clients in the wood industry to help them identify, assess, prevent, and control hazard that could occur in their operations. Our services related to combustible dust include:

  • Expert consulting
  • Hazard assessments/Process hazard analysis
  • Dust sampling
  • Policy and procedure development and implementation
  • Training
  • Incident investigation

Reach out to our H&S Team to discuss your needs.



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