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Combustible Dust Risk Management

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) developed a number of consensus standards to address the dangerous consequences of explosions caused by fire and combustible dust. In this specific situation, the traditional trio of elements needed for a fire - fuel, heat and oxygen - are combined with dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration, and confinement of the dust cloud to create a catastrophic combustible dust explosion. Two of the elements are difficult to eliminate: oxygen (within air), and confinement of the dust cloud (within processes or buildings). However, the other three elements can be controlled to a significant extent. 

The NFPA consensus standards are designed to provide guidance on dust explosion prevention and mitigation by controlling fuel sources (combustible dust), ignition sources, and dispersion of dust particles. OSHA announced the National Combustible Dust Emphasis Program in 2008 and updated it in 2015 to address combustible dust. OSHA does inspect for combustible dust and issues fines. Generally, the General Duty Clause is cited, as there are Industry Standards available (NFPA) that detail the risks, hazards, and mitigation of the risks to facilities and employees. 

Combustible dust is not covered by the OSHA PSM standard. The OSHA PSM standard (29 CFR 1910.119) is restricted to flammable gases and liquids. However, the process of evaluating and mitigating the hazards of combustible dust is very similar to PSM. In fact, NFPA 652-required elements are similar to a number of PSM elements. 

Due to this similarity in hazard identification and mitigation processes as well as a shared purpose to prevent catastrophic incidents, experts in process safety are uniquely qualified to address combustible dust and explosion hazards at your facility. Specifically, it is crucial that those working with combustible dust risks understand the unique hazards of combustible dust and/or what can cause a deflagration/explosion. 

Trinity's experts provide the background and knowledge necessary to provide thorough guidance including an understanding of dust ignition sources, the likelihood of a combustible atmosphere to occur in/around certain equipment, and the most appropriate risk mitigation techniques.

According to the NFPA, all applicable industries are required to conduct Dust Hazard Analyses (DHAs) by September 7, 2020, except agricultural and food processing industries covered by NFPA 61, which have a due date of January 1, 2022.

NFPA Combustible Dust Standards

View our downloadable NFPA Combustible Dust Standards poster (PDF)

General Industries:

  • NFPA 652 - Fundamentals of Combustible Dust
  • NFPA 68 - Explosion Protection by Deflagration Venting
  • NFPA 69 - Explosion Prevention Systems
  • NFPA 499 - Recommended Area Classification for Electrical Equipment in Areas Where Combustible Dusts are Produced/Handled
  • NFPA 654 - Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids


  • NFPA 61 - Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agriculture and Food Processing Facilities
  • NFPA 664 - Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities
  • NFPA 484 - Combustible Metals

Trinity's Combustible Dust Services

  • Dust Hazard Analysis facilitation
  • NFPA regulatory compliance assistance
  • Combustible dust testing analysis and interpretation
  • Prevention and mitigation method recommendations (e.g. provide explosion venting or suppression) with vendor selection support
  • Standard interpretation and applicability assistance

Combustible Dust Resources

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For guidance or questions regarding combustible dust risk mitigation, please contact Josh Haar, PE at 401.751.0244.