5 Causes of Industrial Fires and Explosions

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5 Causes of Industrial Fires and Explosions

Even with the most intense safety regulations and worker training, fires still happen in industrial settings. Knowing the enemy is half the battle—learn more about the causes of industrial fires and explosions and stay safe with our helpful guide.

Combustible Dust

Dust may not be the first thing you imagine when considering dangerous, flammable substances, but it’s one of the most common causes of industrial fires and explosions. Combustible dust can be found in numerous industrial settings, from food processing to chemical facilities.

Combustible dust is solid suspended material that’s flammable when near an ignition source. Since it’s small, dust can spread quickly to hazardous areas—which is why astute cleanliness and ventilation are essential in industrial facilities.

Hot Work

Hot work is a catch-all phrase meaning any type of work that can pose a fire hazard, like:

  • Welding
  • Torch cutting
  • Burning
  • Brazing
  • Soldering

Basically, hot work is any task that utilizes intensely hot, molten materials and sparks. Often, it’s a combination of hot work and combustible dust that start fires or explosions, so workers must be careful about their hot work station and tools.

Electrical Hazards

We’ve all had the momentary shock of static electricity hitting us at home—but in an industrial setting, that static can be much larger and more robust and cause a fire or explosion. Electrical fires and flashes are sudden and can come from many sources, including exposed wiring, overloaded circuits/outlets, and static discharge.

Electrical arc flashes are severely dangerous to workers, so sufficient PPE like flame-retardant pants, shirts, gloves, and outerwear is essential for industrial electricians.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a common energy source that powers millions of homes and buildings worldwide—but it’s also flammable and dangerous to the workers harvesting it. Natural gas is mostly methane blended with other gasses like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or helium.

Natural gas is highly flammable, and minor sparks in an area with enough natural gas can be disastrous. Since natural gas is odorless and colorless, workers and safety professionals must be diligent about leaks and areas with hazardous amounts of natural gas.

Flammable Liquids

Many industrial facilities, especially chemical plants, contain large stores of flammable liquids like fuel, oil, and acrylic acid. These flammable liquids are necessary for many chemical plants and industrial environments, but a minor leak is hazardous to workers and the workplace.

Many of these liquids are heated up and stored near heat sources in industrial facilities, so safety precautions and equipment are even more vital to worker and workplace safety.

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