Firefighters may respond to fires in industrial dust collectors, hoppers or bins containing combustible dusts.


Explosive conditions may occur, putting firefighters at risk of injury.

Actions for employers

Employers should:

  • identify locations of industrial dust collectors, hoppers and bins in their response area
  • pre-plan for emergency situations
  • develop procedures for responding to fires in industrial dust collectors, hoppers or bins containing combustible dusts

Combustible dusts found in dust collectors, hoppers and bins

Industrial dust collectors, hoppers and bins that are used in woodworking, furniture manufacturing, flour mills and dry food processing mills may contain combustible dusts such as:

  • sawdust
  • metal shavings
  • paper and plastic dust
  • grains and flour
  • other types of milling or agricultural products

Explosive conditions in dust collectors, hoppers and bins

Explosive conditions may arise when there is:

  • an ignition source and/or movement of air into the interior of the dust collector, hopper or bin
  • a sudden movement of materials causing dust to be suspended in the air
  • a smoldering fire in the contents
  • a buildup of static electricity in equipment used to transfer, transport or move a product from one container to another
  • action by first responders or firefighters attempting to clear materials to get to a source of ignition

Responding to dust collector, hopper and bin incidents

Consider the following precautions when developing procedures for responding to these incidents:

  • avoid entry into the collector, hopper, or bin to extinguish fires, where possible
  • identify the product, hazards and the extent and degree to which fire and heat are transferred within the container and the surrounding duct work or buildings
  • use thermal imaging cameras, if available
  • establish an adequate water supply before commencing any suppression operations
  • consider the use of firefighting foam, depending on products involved
  • exercise caution when applying hose streams, to minimize the unwanted or sudden movement of potentially explosive materials in the container
  • apply only as much water or foam as is necessary to ensure the containment of the fire, to prevent structural stress or a collapse of the structure
  • stand clear of all openings and any pre-set relief valves for explosion venting
  • open any access point with extreme caution and as remotely as possible using aerial devices and ladders along with pike poles, ropes or other equipment, in order to minimize exposure to the individual undertaking the operation and maximize the distance from the hazard
  • refrain from using any power tools to open access points, hatches or hinge pins as residual sparking and vibration may create an even greater explosive hazard
  • only open lower doors of hoppers after proper ventilation practices have been completed
  • slowly and systematically unload any dust collector, hopper or bin to ensure adequate soaking of any contents and safe removal
  • do not consider a fire in an industrial dust collector, hopper or bin extinguished until the dust collector, hopper or bin is empty

Note: Incidents involving agricultural silos are unique and may require different tactics and approaches from those described in this Guidance Note.

Applicable regulations and acts


  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
    • clause 25(2)(a) for providing information and instruction to a worker
    • clause 25(2)(d) for making workers aware of hazards
    • clause 25(2)(h) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers


Read firefighter guidance notes: