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Risk Insight: Combustible Dust

Construction & Real Estate, Food & Agribusiness, Manufacturing & Distribution, Property & Casualty

It is no surprise in the current market that insurance companies are scrutinizing risks, and, in some cases, raising the standards for what they will decide to insure. Many are familiar with risk mitigation strategies like improving fire protections and implementing multi-factor authentication to increase insurability, but organizations are overlooking one area that insurance companies are paying more attention to: dust and its potential to create an explosion hazard.

Dust has been responsible for some large explosions over the years, and, while it is commonly associated with grain, combustible dust deflagration can occur in many other types of businesses. Sugar confectionaries, furniture manufacturers, and even pharmaceutical plants have fallen victim to large scale explosions brought about by dust.

What to expect from a dust hazard analysis

Due to the significant property exposure, as well as the life safety exposure, don’t be surprised if your insurance company asks more questions about your dust.

Insurance companies often request a dust hazard analysis (DHA) adhering to the NFPA standard (NFPA 652) be performed. This is a multi-step process starting with the collection of dust samples and a laboratory analysis to determine combustibility. Then, insurance companies will inquire as to what protocols, procedures, and controls are in place to minimize the opportunity for a combustible dust event to occur based on the combustibility of the dust.

Analyzing the dust

Different types of dusts have varying characteristics impacting combustibility including particle size and as well as the dust concentration. This makes determining the extent of your risk an important first step. From there, the focus turns to housekeeping and analyzing the surrounding environment.

Analyzing the environment

For example, your dust collection system will be reviewed and risk will be determined. Your facility will be evaluated and factors such as if the dust collector is inside or outside of the building, and if there is proper explosion venting and suppression in place will be reviewed. Electrical work in combustible dust atmospheres will also be a consideration. After looking at the dust itself, as well as the environment around it, next steps are determined.

Key Takeaways

The following are best practices for any company with dust exposure:

  • Invest in explosion-proof vacuums
  • Eliminate or limit use of dry sweeping
  • Maintain horizontal and vertical surfaces are free as practicable from dust accumulation (< 1/32 of an inch) – typically seen as capable of producing a footprint or the thickness of a paperclip
  • Robust preventative maintenance and review of housekeeping practices and procedures

Reach out to your M3 risk manager if you have questions about your current dust risk, or if you would like more information about dust combustibility.

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