Activities including the grinding, polishing, sawing, cutting, sanding and scratch brushing of aluminum generate fine aluminum particles, some of which are potentially explosive. These particles are known as “fines”, “dust” or “powder.” In the case of aluminum, explosions can result if ignition occurs while particles are suspended in the air as a dust cloud, as the burning extends from one particle to another with extreme speed. Potential sources of ignition include open flames, welding equipment, cutting torches, matches, cigarettes, faulty electrical equipment and static electrical charges.
Qualified personnel can determine the degree of hazard in any operation through laboratory testing. Dust collections systems, of the dry or the wet type, safely capture potentially explosive aluminum fines. Enclosures or exhaust hoods provide efficient pick-up of the fines from the machine or equipment.
Two Aluminum Association publications provide best practices on the safe handling of these materials:
The Aluminum Association has also developed the following video series on the safe handling of aluminum powders and paste: