Purpose: To provide a better understanding of the explosion risk involved in powder coating plants.
What is a powder coating plant?
What hazards can cause a dust explosion?
How do you mitigate dust explosions?
Since its creation in 1945, powder coating has proven itself to be a highly beneficial part of the manufacturing process. Architectural, industrial, and special purpose coatings are used to preserve and enhance finished surfaces for long periods of time. Treated surfaces experience improved color durability and higher resistance to physical damage. Powder coating is widely considered an environmentally friendly finishing option as no volatile organic compounds are produced during application.
Powder coating plants have seen consistent growth over the last 30 years. According to a 2016 market analysis by Grand View Research, the global powder coating market is expected to reach $16.55 billion USD by the year 2024. The growth is being driven by continued product innovation and expansion into growing industries.
The Hazards of Dust Explosions
While economical and effective, this process presents multiple hazards without the implementation of strict fire protection standards. On August 13, 2018, a dust explosion at a Michigan steel mill led to the hospitalization of 15 employees. The workers had been directed to clean out a dust collector filled with ash which rained down as a result of the explosion, causing severe burns.
In addition to the injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charged the coating plant over $30,000 in safety violation penalties.
Causes of Dust Explosions and Fire Protection Solutions
Dust explosions require the presence of five factors:
· Dispersion, creating a cloud in the air.
· Confinement. This regularly occurs inside handling and processing areas where powders are being transferred or collected.
The following fire protection solutions could save countless lives and dollars:
· Assessing potential hazards. Prevention is the most natural step to fire safety in coating plants. Calculate the risks the above five factors pose to the facility, identifying and eliminating potential ignition and dust collection hazards.
· Installation and maintenance. Not all fire protection systems are created equal. Install and maintain fire sprinklers and alarm systems specifically designed for coating plants.
· Good housekeeping. Historically, secondary explosions caused more damage than the initial explosions due to poor housekeeping. What is initially a small ignition can cause external dust deposits to disperse into a cloud and explode. This is common in plants that only prioritize the safety of the direct processing rooms and equipment. Using a wash down system paired with regular sweeping will aid in clearing dust buildup.
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Coating plants and processes are not going anywhere. As the industry continues to grow and employ more people, it's becoming increasingly important to enforce rigorous and precautionary fire protection systems. Understanding the specific needs of powder coating facilities and eliminating hazards will enable processes to proceed safely and profitably.