This summer, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) will issue NFPA 652: Standard on Fundamentals of Combustible Dust. Though NFPA had previously developed several standards addressing combustible dust, those standards were more industry or commodity specific and have often contained different, and sometimes conflicting, requirements. NFPA 652 will consolidate the basic requirements among the existing dust standards and will apply to all industries that are exposed to combustible dust hazards. It will help overcome problems in following the current combustible dust standards by providing guidance to identify and manage fire and explosion hazards caused by combustible dusts. It will also direct users to the combustible dust standards that are specific to their industry or commodity.

The need for NFPA to develop a more consistent combustible dust standard has been a result of a number of incidents that have occurred in an array of industries. According to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), between 2008 and 2012, there have been 29 lives lost and over 160 injuries that stemmed from 50 combustible dust accidents that occurred across the United States. One such incident, the October 2012 combustible dust explosion at US Ink Manufacturing in East Rutherford, New Jersey, resulted in the injury of seven workers. A case study issued by the CSB found that the design of a newly installed dust collection system in the facility was flawed. CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “The findings presented in the CSB report under consideration show that neither U.S. Ink nor its international parent company, Sun Chemical, performed a thorough hazard analysis, study, or testing of the system before it was commissioned in early October 2012. The original design was changed, the original company engineer retired prior to completion of the project, and no testing was done in the days before the operation of the black-ink pre-mixing room production was started up.”

NFPA 652 will help to prevent incidents like this by providing guidance to identify and manage fire and explosion hazards to any industry that handles combustible dust. According to Moure-Eraso, “…National Fire Protection Association codes speak directly to such critical factors as dust containment and collection, hazard analysis, testing, ventilation, air flow, and fire suppression…A national combustible dust standard would include requirements to conform to what are now largely voluntary industry guidelines and would go far in preventing these dust explosions.”

At Harrington Group, we have a personal connection to NFPA 652, as Dale Hansen, one of our firm’s Principals and Senior Fire Protection Engineers, has helped to develop this new combustible dust standard as an active member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Fundamentals of Combustible Dust (CMD-FUN). We are very proud of the work that Dale has contributed towards the development of this standard, as well as of his passion regarding the advancement of combustible dust risk analysis and mitigation.