To view this as a web page, click here



April 26, 2021
Safety Tip of the Week delivered to your inbox each Monday by

Combustible Dust and OSHA Housekeeping Requirements

Housekeeping Assists in Mitigating Potential Combustible Dust Hazards

Housekeeping is an important part of any safety and health program, especially in facilities where combustible material might accumulate.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) grain handling standard (1910.272) requires the employer to develop and implement a written housekeeping program to help eliminate these potential dangers.

The components of a housekeeping program primarily include:

1. Written instructions

2. Frequency of inspections

3. Frequency of cleaning

4. Methods of cleaning

5. Spills and leaks

6. Dust control equipment


Identify "priority" housekeeping areas in grain elevators that are known to be potential sources of ignition. OSHA requires that these include: Floor areas within 35 feet of inside bucket elevator legs, enclosed areas containing grinding equipment, and enclosed areas containing grain dryers located inside the facility.

Address the methods for removing grain spills from work areas, which include" Sweeping, shoveling, and vacuuming, blow down and/or wash down. Note that the use of compressed air to remove dust is permitted by OSHA only when all machinery that presents a source of ignition in the area is shutdown, and all other know potential ignition sources are removed or controlled.

Clean and inspect priority areas daily. Other areas inside the grain elevator but outside of the priority housekeeping areas should be inspected and cleaned at least weekly, or more frequently if needed. Surrounding outside areas should be checked weekly and cleaned as needed.

Report and clean up spills and leaks promptly. Resolve the cause of leaks and spills before resuming operations. Dust collection systems need to be maintained on a regular basis to remain effective. Leaks need to be repaired as soon as possible and dust collection bags need to be replaced as needed. Employees should also notify their supervisor or manager of any housekeeping concerns at any time.

Grain dust is the main source of fuel for explosions in grain handling facilities.

The OSHA grain handling standard allows a maximum accumulation of no more than 1/8th-inch in priority housekeeping areas. If dust accumulations exceed the 1/8th-inch action level, means or methods must be initiated immediately to remove such accumulations.

The employer may use alternative means to the 1/8th-inch action level so long as the alternative can be demonstrated to provide equivalent protection from explosions.

The NGFA expands on an example of a housekeeping program in its Safety and Health Compliance Manual, which can be found here.

When combustible dusts ignite, there are often two explosions, known as primary and secondary explosions.

The primary dust explosion is the first explosion. It occurs when there is a dust suspension in a confined space (such as a container, room, or piece of equipment) that is ignited and explodes.

The primary explosion will shake other dust that has accumulated. When this dust becomes airborne, it also ignites. This secondary dust explosion is often more destructive than the primary one.

Source: National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), Arlington, VA, 202-289-0873.

For more information, please contact Jess McCluer, VP of Safety and Regulatory Affairs, or Jim Seibert, Director of Safety, Education, and Training.

This Safety Tip of the Week originally was published May 28, 2018.



Follow Our Safety News on Twitter

Receive Our Safety E-News Twice a Month

Safety Tip of the Week Archives


Safety Tip of the Week is edited by Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg and published each Monday by Grain Journal, Decatur, IL

800-728-7511 | Website: