Digital Monitoring for Hazardous Environments in Food Production

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In the refining and production process, sugar, wheat flour, and other grains produce fine and ultra fine particulate matter or dust. This particulate matter can remain suspended in the air and a spark can ignite it, producing huge explosions. Dust explosions can cause injuries, deaths, and damage to property, and they can have an impact that results in operational downtimes.

A report issued by Purdue University's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering says there were 12 grain/dust explosions in the U.S. in 2018, which is up from 7 incidences recorded in 2017. There's an urgent need for companies operating in hazardous food production environments to take preventive measures to dramatically minimize the risk of combustible dust explosions.

How Do Dust Explosions Happen?

Combustible dust or explosive dust is a by-product created from food production manufacturing processes that involve flammable raw materials, such as sugar, wheat, and other grains. Although this dust is practically invisible to the human eye, it remains an ever-present deadly hazard in workplaces.

Essentially, if the concentrations of this combustible dust rapidly rise inside an enclosed space, they mix with oxygen to become highly explosive. In such a scenario, the dust acts as fuel for the explosion, and all it takes is a tiny spark for the ignition to occur.

The probable source of the ignition ranges from hot machine bearings that produce sparks to metal embers, cigarette butts, and other fuel sources. As the high-pressure airwaves explode out of an enclosed space, they typically dislodge and stir up combustible dust across the facility, leading to a massive fire explosion.

How to Prevent Dust Explosions in Hazardous Food Production Environments 

Due to the nature of the operating environments in most food processing and handling facilities, you can't completely eliminate the potential dangers of combustible dust. However, factories and facilities can take several measures to reduce the risk in these operating environments. These include:

Managing Dust Collection

By managing dust collection, you reduce the available fuel for potential explosions. Some of the immediate measures to achieve this are as follows:

  • Implementing a program for combustible dust inspection, monitoring, testing, and control
  • Installing proper filters and collection systems
  • Minimizing dust escaping from ventilation systems and other equipment
  • Monitoring and inspecting dust residue in hidden spots regularly
  • Leveraging surfaces that are easy to clean and which don't accumulate dust easily
  • Locating relief valves far away from dust deposits

Ignition Control

You should also consider adopting a robust ignition control strategy to reduce the risks of hazards. Ideally, even if dust is present in your operating environment, there will be no explosion without something to ignite it. You can control ignition sources within your environment by:

  • Maintaining equipment to ensure they're in good working condition
  • Leveraging industry recommended electrical equipment and wiring techniques
  • Controlling smoking, including open flames and sparks
  • Using the right type of industrial trucks
  • Training workforce on how to operate machinery in a safe manner

How Digitization Tools Help Prevent and Detect Combustible Dust in Your Environment

The right digitization tools make it easy to detect, monitor, and prevent combustible dust hazards in your facility. These tools have several top-notch features, including image and video-based applications for detecting and monitoring explosive dust concentrations in the air. It's important to determine the dust concentration suspended in the air, as it allows managers to take proactive safety measures before specific locations within their facility become explosive atmospheres.

How Aegex Digitization Tools Can Help Manage Hazardous Environments in Food Production

One of the effective methods to ensure your facility and workforce are as safe as possible is to routinely measure and monitor how much accumulation of combustible dust is present in your plant. Aegex provides digitization tools that can help players in food production detect and monitor the levels of explosive hazards in their facilities. The Aegex's NexVu IoT solution has top-notch features, including intelligent sensors, endpoints, and radios that provide dust measurements for effective monitoring and control. 

Contact us today to learn more about our digitization tools for combustible dust detection and tracking in food production processes.