The Tech Box

The Tech Box – April 2021

The (In)famous Combustible Dust Hazard

Combustible dust is having its fifteen minutes of pop-culture fame. Last month, the science behind combustible dust became more mainstream with the release of the “bust the dust” add-on kit for the popular simulation game The sims 4.

The downloadable content challenges players to combat ever-growing dust piles and dust bunny creatures in sims’ dwellings with vacuums. letting the dust settle too long in the game, can cause the combustible dust to ignite.

While not realistic, the game does bring up a topic worth a redux in our industry: combustible dust.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reissued in 2015. And while there isn’t
a standard that addresses combustible dust, OSHA officers have the authority to inspect facilities with possible combustible dust hazards. They cite violations based on the existing OSHA standards, using industry consensus standards such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Combustible Dust standards as references.

To help prepare corrugated packaging manufacturers against combustible dust hazard risks, the Fibre Box Association (FBA) Safety & Health Committee created Guidelines for Developing a Combustible Dust Maintenance Program at Your Facility. The document is specific to corrugated box plants and plant issues. The recommendations in it are effective and reasonably easy to implement. And it offers practical guidance for a box plant maintenance protocol.

According to the 2009 Status Report on Combustible Dust NEP, almost half the citations (47%)  were for violations of Haz Com and Housekeeping. Employers have largely been cited for tolerating recognized hazards in their facilities.

See the FBA Safety & Health Committee’s Combustible Dust Guidelines for dust control and management, training and informing employees, and the corrugated material Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Videos of combustible dust explosions can be compelling training/hazard-communication tools, see USCSB’s

The Combustible Dust Guidelines document is free to FBA members on the FBA website and it’s available to non-members at the FBA Store here. A timely article on this topic also recently appeared in EHS Today.

Following the Committee’s Guidelines and developing a maintenance program for combustible dust can keep your employees, building and equipment safe. Let’s leave the ignition of combustible dust where it belongs - in the game.


Mary Alice

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Mary Alice Drain is the Director of Technical Services at Fibre Box Association (FBA). If you have technical questions about the corrugated industry, you can reach her direct at