We usually think of sawdust as a long-term hazard to our lungs. But accumulated in large amounts, as in a woodshop or a furniture factory, sawdust carries the short-term risk of explosion. Watch this video of firefighters attempting to quell a smoking dust hopper when the unexpected happens:
That was at a furniture factory in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Wondering how that happened? According to The Abbotsford News, "Flames took hold in a hopper storing dust at a furniture manufacturer…. According to witnesses, crews were dousing the hopper when it was opened. Dust spilled forth and instantly ignited."
When copious amounts of fine sawdust come into contact with oxygen, and there's a heat source or spark nearby, the results can be disastrous. A single mini-explosion can have a domino effect, with the shockwave dispersing yet more dust that causes a second explosion, then a third, and so on. To help you understand how these explosions occur and what you can do to prevent them, we tracked down the following video, which explains: