Explosion Protection & Process Safety

Powders and bulk solids are handled and processed widely in chemical, pharmaceutical, food, milling, dairy, agriculture, plastic, mineral, and other industries: these dry materials’ handling operations imply the processing of unique fire, explosion and toxicity hazards. Substances practically inert in consolidated form can become quite hazardous when converted to powders and granules.

Safe Handling of Powders and Bulk Solids

Powder handling equipment manufacturers should be well aware of regulations governing machine safety and should ensure the safety of their products.

Powder handling equipment operators should be involved in the process and should be correctly trained. This not only involves operators, but maintenance technicians, cleaning staff, and anyone who comes into contact with the powder handling equipment.

Precautions must be taken in connection with processes, such as grinding, atomizing, conveying, collecting, drying, screening, grading, blending, weighing, and packing.

Handling and processing dry materials/dust present unique fire, explosion, and toxicity hazards.

Materials practically inert in consolidated form can become quite hazardous when converted to powders and granules.

Safe powder handling equipment must be designed for two things:

  • to remove all of what is identified as 13 possible sources of ignition (primarily by making sure the equipment is grounded) and,
  • by ensuring that the equipment is as easy to clean as possible.


Dust can be created when materials are handled, transported, processed, ground, shaped, and polished. They can arise through crushingmixingsifting, or screening dry bulk materials. 

Combustible dusts are fine particles that present an explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions.

Combustible dust explosions can cause tragic loss of life, injuries, and destruction of industrial buildings and occur within milliseconds.

In many incidents, workers and managers are unaware of the potential for dust explosions or fail to recognize the severe nature of dust explosion hazards.

Imperial Sugar Company Dust Explosion and Fire
Imperial Sugar Company Dust Explosion and Fire – Accident occurred on 02/07/2008

Five elements to initiate a dust explosion

Five elements are necessary for a combustible dust explosion to occur: fuel (combustible dust), ignition source (heat), oxygen, dispersion, and confinement of the dust cloud.

Different approaches to protecting against the ravages of the explosion are regularly used to limit this damage.

Safety measures

Good housekeeping is an essential first step toward mitigating dust explosion hazards.

Other safety measures include:

  • The use of proper dust collection systems and filters,
  • The use of vacuum cleaners specifically approved (ATEX) for dust collection,
  • Implementation of a hazardous dust control program that includes dust inspection, testing, and housekeeping,
  • Regular review of both open and hidden areas for dust residue,
  • Ensuring that employees are trained on the hazards of combustible dust.

Using proper electrical equipment in hazardous locations is crucial to eliminating familiar ignition sources. Other ways of controlling ignition sources include:

  • Ensuring the use of appropriate electrical equipment and wiring methods,
  • Keeping heated systems and surfaces away from combustible dust,
  • Governing the use of open flames and static electricity,
  • Having an ignition control program, such as grounding and bonding, and other methods dissipate any electrostatic charge that could be generated when transporting and handling dust.

The complexity of the processes that can lead to a dust explosion makes it challenging to assess the actual risks in dealing with combustible dust/air mixes. This makes flammable dust explosion protection very important. These are generally considered to mean avoiding or limiting the build-up of a hazardous explosive atmosphere. 

Dust explosion testing

Results of dust explosion testing can be used to determine the appropriate solutions to protect potential dust explosion hazard areas within facilities.

Dust explosion mitigation

Dust explosion mitigation systems can be categorized into two main types of technologies, being:

Passive safeguards: passive safeguards react to an event

Active safeguards: detect and respond before or during an event

By using passive, active, or a combination of both safeguards, a custom explosion protection solution can be designed to mitigate or prevent dust explosion hazards specific to particular process needs.

Companies that manufacture explosion-proof equipment and systems for the global market must conform to applicable explosion protection standards.


ATEX (ATmosphere EXplosibles – French for Explosive Atmospheres) is the formal name given to the two European Directives for controlling explosive atmospheres.

ATEX (ATmosphere EXplosibles – French for Explosive Atmospheres)There are two European Directives in place for the control of explosive atmospheres: Directive 1999/92/EC (also known as ‘ATEX 153’ or the ‘ATEX Workplace Directive’)

Directive 2014/34/EU (also known as ‘ATEX 114’ or ‘the ATEX Equipment Directive’)

ATEX Certification

ATEX is the European certification given to equipment tested and approved to be intrinsically safe in potentially explosive atmospheres.

Equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX) cover a range of products, including those used in chemical plants, food manufacturing plants, flour mills, pharmaceutical production, and other areas where a potentially explosive atmosphere may be present.

ATEX is not harmonized with NFPA combustible dust standards and is not considered by OSHA an acceptable certification for electrical equipment used in hazardous locations.

Click here for more information about equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX)

NFPA 652 – Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dusts, provides requirements for the management of combustible dust fire and explosion hazards and directs the user to appropriate NFPA industry or commodity-specific standards. The standard also ensures that crucial needs are addressed consistently across industries, processes, and dust types.

Click here for more information about NFPA 652 – Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust.



IECEx is a global standard to ensure that explosion-proof equipment and systems are safe for use in countries participating in the IECEx system. To be validated against the IECEx Certified Equipment Scheme, manufacturers need to obtain the Certificate of Conformity (CoC), validation of the technical report (ExTR), and the quality assurance report (QAR).

Click here for more information about the IECEx system

Because combustible dust issues are complex and incidents can be devastating, it’s essential to use experienced, independent, and professional engineers to help design and install powder handling systems.

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Experts for Explosion Protection & Process Safety

Matthew Bailey – Technical Lead

Matthew is a mechanical engineer holding an honours degree from the Auckland University of Technology and has been responsible for BFM® Global’s product development, testing and compliance programme for almost 5 years. Matt’s experience is centered on the powder handling industry with a specific focus on flexible connectors, and all the compliance requirements around them. From food to pharmaceutical and all industries in between, Matt works with our Distributor partners, end users and OEMs from Europe, Asia and the Americas to solve application challenges. He regularly attends industry tradeshows around the world and understands the complex requirements of each different market.
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For over 60 years IEP Technologies have been providing market leading explosion protection solutions into industry. Matt Elliott has been part of that journey now for over three years and has had the privilege to draw on IEP’s wealth of expertise during that time. Matt is responsible for technical sales of active, and passive explosion protection systems in the southern half of the United Kingdom. His background as a fully qualified mechanical engineer, HNC education and subsequent ten years of experience in technical sales directly related to powder handling, which has provided a cornerstone of knowledge to address the challenges IEP Technologies face every day. If you were to ask Matt what his key attributes are he would say “to fully understand the application presented by the customer, but also competently design a viable solution to benefit the customer”. This statement is only made possible by listening carefully to a customer but also being proficient when it comes to designing explosion protection solutions in line with their stringent regulations and delivering solutions within IEP Technologies’ design guidance and current EN standards.
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Joe Kain has worked for the Boss Products Engineering Department since September 2018. He plays a large role in the day-to-day operations of the technical side of the business spanning from our UL listed panel shop, to technical documentation, and product/industry knowledge. Throughout his tenure at Boss Products, he has become well versed in applicable NFPA publications with particular focus in NFPA 68 and 69 which helps him provide adequate recommendations for safety solutions for customers and internal staff.
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Dr.-Ing. Johannes Lottermann studied safety engineering before he worked for DMT GmbH & Co. KG, an independent engineering and consulting company. He managed the department of technical fire and explosion safety. In 2010 he started to work at REMBE GmbH Safety + Control and is in his role as Director Explosion Safety responsible for the (inter)national customer base with a focus on consulting and engineering. Johannes Lottermann is a member of numerous expert committees and international professional associations such as the VDI, VDSI and VGB.
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