5 Dangerous Aspects Of Aluminium That Every Worker Should Know

Dec 9, 2020 | Workplace Safety

Aluminium is one of the most widely used metals across a range of industries from food production, to aeronautics and aerospace. Due to the wide range of alloys that can be made with aluminium, it is possible to modify the characteristics of this metal in several ways. Lightweight, low magnetism and low spark production make aluminium an ideal choice for use in almost all industries. However, when this material is available as particles or dusts (atomised dust), it is highly explosive. Certain applications that create these explosive dusts can result in significant danger for the operator and work environment.

The conditions necessary for aluminium to become highly dangerous depend on its granulometry and composition. It is particularly explosive when found in the form of atomised dust, making this material highly volatile when in contact with the air.

Atomised aluminium is used as a catalyst in the chemical industry, and also in the production of paints and cosmetics. In general, it is usually good practice to prevent the formation of dangerous combustible dusts by maintaining a dust-free workplace. The most effective method is to use an industrial vacuum cleaner that has been specifically designed to eliminate the build-up of dust, either on production machinery or in the workplace.

How do dust explosions occur?

The 5 most dangerous aspects of aluminium dusts

  1. Aluminium dusts react easily with oxygen at room temperature, so any workplace operating with aluminium or producing aluminium waste must adopt explosion proof measures in compliance with Australian Standards.
  2. The smaller the particles of Aluminium dust, the greater the risk of explosion or fire. Particles smaller than 100 microns are considered dangerous. Anyone working in pharmaceutical laboratories where aluminium hydroxide is used, for example, must use industrial vacuums with high efficiency filtration.
  3. Large particles are also quite dangerous because their combustion speed is higher. It’s uncommon that explosive dusts are uniform, so aluminium particles of bigger sizes that may be considered “safe” will also be mixed with smaller 100 micron particles. The result is a high risk of explosion coupled with a high rate of burning.
  4. When the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere is between 10% and 15% fire tends to spread more rapidly. A higher concentration of oxygen results in more violent explosions. It’s much easier to avoid the accumulation of aluminium dusts with proper maintenance than to modify the concentration of oxygen.
  5. When in contact with water, aluminium releases heat and hydrogen. This means that the slightest accumulation of aluminium dust can become a source of heat capable of causing an explosion. If unable to separate water and Aluminium, an IECEX certified industrial vacuum or a vacuum with inert oil is needed. This will allow you to effectively and safely separate dry from liquid materials.

Inerting system

In order to vacuum aluminium dust, you need an inerting system which eliminates the risk of explosion. Our Delfin range includes features such as:

  • Container with a liquid bath inerting system that makes it possible to prevent fires/explosions from flammable powders such as aluminium or titanium.
  • The vessel contains a stainless steel quick-lock deflector, a PPL separation filter to reuse oil for the next cleaning cycle, and a demister to prevent the oil mist from being sucked into the main filter.
  • A pressure relief valve prevents the risk of accumulation of explosive gas in a vacuum.

The vacuumed explosive dust passes through the oil bath and gets submerged in oil, thus eliminating the risk of explosion.

When investing to solve your combustible dust problems, ensure you are looking at certified explosion proof equipment. If you decide to purchase an industrial vacuum cleaner, make sure it is an explosion proof Delfin.

Want to know more specific to your industry? We have the toughest range of industrial vacuum cleaners from vacuums for dust control in workplaces to the best industrial vacuum cleaners in Australia and HEPA filter vacuum cleaners to name a few. Don’t hesitate to contact our team on 03 8597 3376.

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