Safe Choice Education

Safe Choice Education

Combustible Dust

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Certified Explosion-Proof Vacuum vs. Standard Industrial Vacuum Cleaner

OSHA’s Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program calls for electric vacuums for use in dusty areas to be approved for the hazardous location, as required under standard 1910.307(b). The standard stipulates that facilities follow the Class and Division system as defined by NFPA 70 (the National Electrical Code).

According to OSHA and the NFPA, inspectors are looking for a housekeeping program that will keep combustible dust levels below 1/32” on horizontal surfaces to ultimately prevent a combustible dust fire or explosion. Recommendations include incorporating a properly equipped industrial vacuum cleaner into maintenance plans for source capture and as portable suction devices to prevent fugitive dust from accumulating. If you are collecting explosive dust and/or cleaning in a rated environment, we recommend you use a certified explosion proof vacuum / dust ignition proof vacuum or a combustible dust safe pneumatic industrial vacuum that meets the requirements for use in Class 1, Group D and Class II, Groups E, F, and G. Additionally, all internal mechanisms of the vacuum, including the motor, switches, filters, and inner chambers must be specifically designed for use in explosion proof / dust ignition proof applications.

One important reminder: mops, brooms and blow guns push dust around without removing it and can create dangerous dust clouds. With lightweight, adjustable tools, flexible hoses, and overhead cleaning accessories, industrial vacuum systems can easily remove dust from floors, walls, machinery, overhead pipes, and other hard-to-reach areas.

It is up to you, the manufacturer, to know the composition of the material(s) you are processing and all applicable laws. MSDS sheets are a starting point, but most do not address the explosivity of generated dust. Manufacturers should consult their Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and/or have their dust tested by a private testing lab or by OSHA.

offers a full line of industrial vacuum cleaners that meet or exceed Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) standards, including explosion proof, dust ignition proof, air-operated, wet/dry, cleanroom, single-phase, three-phase, and even backpack models.


Wet/Dry Collection vs. Dry Collection

OSHA’s Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program specifically looks at companies that handle dry solids. However, there are instances in which the material the company is manufacturing has a liquid component. In these cases, an explosion-proof vacuum or dust ignition proof vacuum with wet/dry collection capabilities should be considered. Manufacturers can simultaneously pick up wet and dry debris without special adapters or filter switching for these unique cleaning applications. Wet/dry models are available in both electric and air-operated versions.

Electric and air-operated models with varying collection capacities are also available for manufacturers in need of dry-only material collection. Nilfisk offers a wide array of both wet/dry and dry-only collection vacuums.


Electric Explosion-Proof Vacuum vs. Pneumatic Hazardous Location Vacuum

Cleaning with a high-performance certified explosion-proof/dust ignition-proof vacuum is critical to help prevent an explosion. All internal mechanisms of the vacuum including the motor, switches, filters and inner chambers should be designed to be used in explosion-proof / dust ignition-proof applications. Purchasing an explosion-proof / dust ignition proof vacuum approved by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL)will protect plant managers from imposters. The Nilfisk line of electric explosion-proof vacuums / dust ignition proof vacuums are CSA-certified for use in hazardous environments, including Class I, Group D and Class II, Groups E, F, and G locations.

There are times when electricity is unavailable or undesirable. For these situations, air-operated vacuums are excellent alternatives to explosion-proof / dust ignition proof vacuums. However, just because a vacuum is air-operated does not mean it is explosion-proof. Combustible dust-safe pneumatic vacuums should be constructed of non-sparking materials and outfitted with ignition-proof parts and accessories that meet the highest level of operational safety.

Air-operated vacuums for hazardous locations should be suitable for use in the classified environment.  Nilfisk pneumatic EXP vacuums for hazardous locations comply with the ATEX Directive for collection of combustible dusts and are suitable for use in Class I, Group D and Class II, Groups, E, F, and G locations.


Intrinsically Safe Vacuum vs. Explosion-Proof Vacuum

We get this question a lot, but it’s actually an apples-to-oranges comparison. The NFPA defines “intrinsically safe equipment” as “equipment and wiring that are incapable of releasing sufficient electrical energy under normal or abnormal conditions to cause ignition of a specific hazardous atmospheric mixture in its most easily ignited concentration.” Electric explosion-proof / dust ignition proof vacuum cleaners, as available in the United States today, are not “intrinsically safe” because they are not equipped with a motor and a switch that comply with the intrinsic safety protection method. As described in section 504 of the National Electric Code, “intrinsically safe” is an accepted protection technique for hazardous location areas; however, intrinsically safe systems are not bound by the provisions of Articles 501 through 503, the very articles that NRTL-certified explosion-proof equipment, including electric explosion-proof / dust ignition proof vacuum cleaners, are bound by.

The term “intrinsically safe” is often incorrectly used to describe pneumatic equipment. The definition of intrinsic safety states that equipment and wiring are incapable of releasing sufficient electrical energy to cause ignition, but it makes no mention of pneumatically-driven equipment. Pneumatic, or air-powered, vacuums do not generate any electrical energy and are therefore not intrinsically safe.


Dust Ignition-Proof Vacuum vs. Explosion-Proof Vacuum

Although the term “explosion-proof vacuum” is widely used to describe a vacuum cleaner that safely collects potentially explosive materials or is safe for use in a rated environment, according to the NFPA, “explosion-proof” equipment only refers to Class I locations. Dust ignition proof refers to equipment that is safe for use in Class II environments. Nilfisk’s EXP line of industrial vacuum systems are both explosion- proof and dust ignition-proof since they can be used in Class I, Group D and Class II, Groups E, F, and G locations.

About is your source for dust and contaminant control information. Nilfisk Industrial Vacuums is a world leader in dust control and has been providing industrial vacuums for over 100 years.

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Mailing Address

Nilfisk Inc.
Industrial Vacuum Division

740 Hemlock Road, Suite 100
Morgantown, PA 19543
Phone: 800-NILFISK [(800) 645-3475]
Fax: (610) 286-7350