On September 7, 2015, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) issued NFPA 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust. There were already several industry-specific NFPA standards for minimizing hazards associated with combustible dust. However, these different standards do not always align. NFPA 652 is the first step to creating a single, unified combustible dust standard that would apply to all facilities. In addition, NFPA has also stated that through its Combustible Dust Correlation Committee, plans are in place to reformat some of the current NFPA standards to align with NFPA 652. However, NFPA 652 is in its infancy, and there is still a significant amount of work to be done on this new standard. This article will provide an update on the ongoing activities by NFPA, and it will discuss what is currently included in the new NFPA 652 standard.
Flash fires and explosions resulting from combustible dust are responsible for a significant number of industrial accidents that are often overlooked. This serious hazard may be overlooked by many because it is not fully understood. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has begun to increase awareness to the hazards associated with combustible dust through a National Emphasis Program (NEP). This NEP often cites NFPA standards for combustible dust. These NFPA standards have been written to reduce the risk of a combustible dust incident from occurring or to minimize the hazards in the event of a flash fire or explosion. However, these standards are industry specific. For example, wood processing and woodworking facilities refer to NFPA 664, while a food processing plant that handles flour and sugar, both of which are combustible solids, would refer to NFPA 61. Often times, the various NFPA standards do not align with each other, creating confusion.
In order to consolidate all of the various combustible dust standards, NFPA has developed NFPA 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust. This standard is the first step to create a single, overarching standard that addresses fire and explosion hazards associated with combustible dust of all types and in all industries. NFPA 652 lays the groundwork for a standardized format that all NFPA regulations relating to combustible dust will use.