Researchers at Purdue University designed a new image and video-based application that can detect combustible dust concentrations in the air. The new invention could help employers determine appropriate safety measures to keep workers from being exposed to hazardous dust.
The application uses newly developed algorithms to capture images of a suspended dust cloud, then analyzes the light extinction coefficient. Dust particles are often invisible to the naked eye, and current detection technology can be expensive and difficult to install.
Researchers say the application can be used in agricultural, power-handling or manufacturing settings. It’s also able to distinguish suspended dust from “normal background noise.”.
In testing, the application was able to recognize 95 percent of sawdust and 93 percent of cornstarch particles in the air.
What this Means for Worker Safety
This new technology means more accessible, easy-to-use combustible dust detection for employers.
In addition to being difficult to install, current technology works by separating dust matter into multiple filters that must be weighed and require additional analysis. The new technology does not require extended training to operate and does not need to be permanently installed as it is location independent.
Combustible dust incidents have resulted in numerous injuries and deaths over the years. Between 2006 and 2017, the United States had 111 combustible dust incidents that resulted in 66 worker deaths and 337 injuries, according to data from the Chemical Safety Board.
“Determining suspended dust concentration allows employers to take appropriate safety measures before any location within the industry forms into an explosive atmosphere,” Kingsly Ambrose, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said in the release.
Which Dusts are Combustible?
Combustible dust hazards are widespread among a variety of industries.
Many facilities may not even realize their dust is a health and safety hazard.However, a wide range of materials can be explosive when in dust form.
This can include food, grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, pesticides, coal, and metals. These combustible materials can burn rapidly as dust suspended in air under the right conditions.
The force of an explosion such as this can cause mass destruction.
Effects of Dust Exposure
The effects of dust exposure depend on where the dust originates.
Wood dust may cause anything from dermatitis and inflammation to decreased lung capacity and occupational asthma. And, dusts from coal can cause chronic lung disease, or even cancer.
How to Keep your Workplace Safe and Compliant
Staying up-to-date on the latest technology and processes can help employers detect dust in their workplace. The next step is to be prepared with suitable personal protective equipment.
If your workers wear respirators, then it’s required that they’re periodically fit tested (Learn About Mobile Fit Testing HERE). If you’re working with dusts of any kind, especially of the combustible variety, then it’s doubly as important to sure that they’re working correctly.
We offer on-site medical testing that can make sure your employees are healthy. Our services include respirator fit testing, DOT medical exams, crystalline silica testing, and more.
To schedule your mobile medical surveillance testing or to get a quote, just complete the form below or give us a call at 1-844-622-8633.