industrial vacuum cleaners should be part of a dust-control program.
VAC-U-MAX offers off-the-shelf compressed air-powered vacuums suitable for service certification in Class II, Div. II environments, due to their bumper-to-bumper grounded and bonded design.
Sweeping or blowing wayward dust during housekeeping is
widely discouraged by OSHA and the NFPA for nearly all industries. While
seemingly benign, dusts can create many hazards, such as flying particles that
can lead to eye injury; slippery surfaces; and heavy accumulations that can
lead to ergonomic injuries. The most serious hazards involving the sweeping and
blowing of dust - such as respiratory and explosion hazards - threaten lives.
The use of vacuums is almost always recommended as a preferred method of
removing fugitive dust. Rather than redistributing dust, industrial vacuum
cleaners remove it, thereby reducing or eliminating any hazards.
The most dramatic hazard associated with dust is secondary explosion. In fact,
this danger captured the attention of the United States Congress, which led to
a bill that directed OSHA to “issue an interim combustible dust rule and an
amendment to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in 90 days, and a final
rule in 18 months,” according to OSHA’s “Combustible Dust; Advance Notice of
With over 4,900 violations associated with OSHA’s Combustible Dust National
Emphasis Program (NEP), recent news releases about the organization leveling
fines ranging from $63,000 to $137,000 at four companies in 2010, and increased
local television coverage of combustible dust violations, OSHA has made it
clear that it will enforce current standards.
In response to OSHA’s NEP, many facility and safety managers have revamped their
housekeeping practices and have added industrial vacuum cleaners approved for
use in Class II Div. II areas to mitigate the possibility of secondary
explosions caused by fugitive dust.
However, of the more than 1,000 inspections that OSHA has completed, only
18-22% of the facilities were in compliance with OSHA requirements.
“It can sometimes be tough for facilities,” says David Kennedy, general
manager, VAC-U-MAX Vacuum Cleaning division. “They may have gotten approval
from the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), but OSHA can still come in and
fine them if they deem that the facility doesn’t meet combustible dust
VAC-U-MAX, a leading manufacturer of industrial vacuum cleaning systems for
production lines and other dust-intensive areas, developed the first
air-operated industrial vacuum cleaner to prevent dust explosions.
Although it can be argued that current OSHA standards are ambiguous (hence
OSHA’s proposed rulemaking on combustible dust), the standards are clearly
noted in the organization’s bulletin, “Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing
and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions,” which was first issued five
Because OSHA is taking strong enforcement actions, facilities must make
reasonable efforts to mitigate combustible dust hazards. To assist companies in
understanding OSHA requirements, VAC-U-MAX has developed a Web site, www.combustibledustvacs.com
, dedicated to combustible dust
hazards, including OSHA documents referencing the hazards and compliance.
According to OSHA, housekeeping ranked second in citations under the NEP “with
respect to combustible dust-related hazards.” Among the most commonly cited
violations were accumulations of combustible, blowing dust with an air
compressor and not using electrical equipment that was designed for hazardous
“There is no single standard or specific vacuum cleaner that can meet the
requirements for all combustible dust,” says Kennedy. “Companies really need
someone who has intimate knowledge of how chemicals react in certain
environments and is experienced in NFPA standards to help them choose the right
Class II Div. II vacuum cleaner.”
The VAC-U-MAX central vacuum system.
VAC-U-MAX offers compressed air-powered vacuums that meet the NFPA 70 requirements for grounding and bonding.
The three most recent dust explosions (two outside the U.S. and one in
Douglas County, OR), which killed 19 people and injured 53, serve as a reminder
that secondary dust explosions are more destructive than primary explosions.
This is because increased concentrations of dispersed combustible dust are
activated by the initial explosion.
Beyond creating dust clouds that have the potential to ignite, sweeping or
blowing dust during housekeeping routines causes powders to become suspended
and settle in hard-to-reach areas, including beams, walls, areas hidden behind
equipment, or in very small spaces. The accumulation of combustible dust in
these areas is among OSHA’s most-cited violations. The use of industrial vacuum
cleaners designed for use in Class II Div. II environments not only removes
dust particles as small 1 micron but, when used regularly in housekeeping
routines, minimizes the amount of dust that can collect in hard-to-reach areas.
Reducing the amount of dust suspended in the air leads to lower housekeeping
costs because fewer work hours are required for the task.
In addition to mitigating the possibility of dust explosions, reducing the
amount of combustible powder suspended in the air through the use of industrial
vacuum cleaners can lead to a better respiratory environment for workers. It
also reduces slip hazards and may even prevent back injuries caused by cleaning
Respiratory, Slip and Ergonomic Hazards
“The business of working with powders is fascinating,” says
David Kennedy. “We work with so many different chemicals that have such
wide-ranging reactions, it never gets boring. Some chemicals don’t get wet with
water; in fact, they can even become more flammable when exposed to water. We
are working on an application right now that is a waste product of three
different chemicals. There is no name for this chemical, but we are helping our
client deal with the explosive nature of this waste.
“Some powders, such as silica, have the ability to hang in the air for days
when blown with air compressors,” Kennedy continues. “Others, such as graphite,
are slippery, and some are very heavy, like cement. A heavy powder can weigh
50-70 lbs/ft2 and can cause back injuries when being swept.”
When dusts hang in the air for long periods, they can exacerbate respiratory
threats. Silica exposure can lead to silicosis, a lung disease caused by
continued inhalation of siliceous minerals that are prevalent in glass, brick,
cement, asphalt, ceramic, and metal fabrication industries where sand is used
as a component or for blasting, as well as in tunneling operations.
“Silica, of course, is only one of the powders that poses respiratory threats
to workers,” says Kennedy. “To combat those, we can provide a second HEPA
filter rated 99.97% on particle size to 0.3 microns.”
Fugitive dust is a housekeeping issue that plagues most industries. Working
with a vacuum cleaner manufacturer that is intimate with chemical
characteristics produces the best outcome for facilities battling fugitive
About the CompanyVAC-U-MAX,
Belleville, NJ, is a premier manufacturer of industrial
vacuum-cleaning systems for production lines and other dust-intensive areas.
For more information, phone (800) 822-8629 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.