Food Processing Dust Collection

Reducing the Risk of Food Processing Dust Exposure

Food processing can produce a serious amount of dust, as anyone in the industry knows. Sometimes the dust comes from an ingredient being added, such as flour, in a large bakery; other times, it comes from a process, such as drying or transferring the food from one place to another. Regardless of the source, dust from food processing is a challenge that can't be ignored. Even if the compound is not toxic, facilities can't tolerate an accumulation of dust in the air or that accumulates on production equipment.

There are roughly 30,000 food-processing facilities in the United States. Employers in this industry are beset by many different regulations, and food safety standards are usually their first priority. But employers need to prioritize workplace safety standards, as well. The serious amounts of dust created in typical food-processing facilities are both a health risk to workers as well as a safety concern to anyone onsite.


Exposure Risks for Food Processing Dust

Food-processing dusts carry two major risks: health hazards and explosion hazards. Many dusts seen in the industry are inhalation risks, and their fine particulate sizes make the substances even more dangerous; smaller particulates can travel deeper into the body, causing significant harm. Even a non-toxic substance can create serious health problems at certain exposures. Whether the dust is a fine flour at a bakery or a food additive such as talc, these substances can easily become airborne and travel throughout an entire facility. As these particulates accumulate in the lungs, symptoms begin with irritation but can move to serious respiratory illnesses.

Some airborne dangers come from an unlikely source: the flavorings consumers have grown to love. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have connected certain chemicals used in flavorings with lung disease. For example, the compound diacetyl—a commonly used component of butter flavorings—has a well documented history with lung disease. The condition in the industry has come to be called “popcorn lung.” While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to issue regulations for specific compounds or ingredients, some of these substances are proving to be health risks after prolonged exposure.

Perhaps the most dangerous risk associated with dust in food-processing facilities is explosion. Combustible dusts are a serious explosion hazard if they are allowed to accumulate. When a combustible dust gathers in just the right concentration with oxygen, it can be ignited by a spark, cigarette, hot wheel bearing, or any number of ignition sources. Dusts susceptible to explosion include: powdered milk, corn starch, wheat starch, sugar, tapioca and whey. A dust explosion can be extremely powerful, injuring or killing employees and destroying property.


Regulations for Food Processing Dust

OSHA enforces its air quality regulations through its “General Duty Clause.” This rule states that an employer must maintain a safe workplace for its employees. Controlling dust in a facility falls within this rule, and employers must be sure workers are not exposed to an excessive level. OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) for nuisance dust is 15 mg/m3. Its PEL for “total dust, respirable fraction” is 5 mg/m3. The limit for respirable dust—measured over an 8-hour time-weighted average—is more stringent because it is more harmful to workers. Other agencies recommend a stricter regulation. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the CDC, recommends a limit of 1 mg/m3 for total dust. While this recommendation does not have the force of law, it represents pressure from researchers and regulators to keep standards high and workplaces safe.

As every food processor knows, this air-quality standard is just one of the many regulations they must follow, and food-safety regulations, enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, can be an enormous responsibility to meet. But, in its vigilance to produce a pure and safe product, a processor can’t afford to overlook OSHA’s rules. Failure to comply with OSHA regulations can lead to serious fines. It also makes an employer vulnerable to lawsuits and other legal liabilities.

Solutions for Food Processing Dust

While most food-processing dusts may seem benign, prolonged exposure to them is dangerous. RoboVent understands how to collect these dusts, whether they are coming off of a particular process or simply a facility-wide problem. RoboVent’s source-capture solutions allow particulates to be collected from specific stations before the dust can accumulate in the ambient air. This powerful option can be controlled at each station by the workers for maximum dust control. Our ambient-capture solutions filter the air throughout your entire facility, protecting workers in even the farthest corners. As with all of its equipment, RoboVent offers the finest warranty in the industry and guarantees satisfaction.


Traditional Configuration

The traditional configuration maximizes performance with ductwork sized for optimal airflow for your specific applications.


VentMapping® Engineering

VentMapping is a systematic engineering and design service. Our comprehensive approach helps us find the safest, most effective and most efficient way to meet your goals.

RoboVent Maintenance Program, Clean Air and Industrial Air Filtration Solutions

ClientCare Maintenance Program

ClientCare lets you leverage RoboVent's expertise so you can reduce the burden on your maintenance staff and stay focused on your core business.


Fusion™ Series

A dust collector on the cutting edge of air filtration. The Fusion Series delivers exceptional performance and cost savings in a powerful, simple package.


Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters, Dust & Fume Air Filters

Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters

RoboVent's premium filter engineered to provide the best filtration protection for your plant and employees. A widened pleat and proprietary filter media help deliver top performance.