How to comply with NFPA 61: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities

NFPA 61 is relevant to all businesses that handle or process dry agricultural bulk materials. We explain here what NFPA 61 is all about, it’s relevant to the food and agriculture sector, and how Stonehouse can assist your business with compliance.

What is NFPA 61?

NFPA 61 is a technical standard prepared by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that provides information to help you identify and manage fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solids found in agricultural and food processing.

NFPA 61 sets out to provide guidance on the minimum general requirements to:

  • Protect all people from serious injury from flash fires and explosions, and to protect property,
  • Limit consequential damage and ensure that production, and operating capability of the facility is to a level that the owner/operator can accept,
  • Protect adjacent and neighborhood buildings, enclosures, facilities, and emergency life safety systems – and the environment,

NFPA 61, if properly adopted and implemented, will help you protect your facility, protect your community and environment, and will assure your production and operating capability for the long-term.

NFPA 61 is an industry-specific standard that is referenced by NFPA 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dusts. It sits alongside the other industry-specific standards NFPA 484, NFPA 654, NFPA 655 and FPA 664 that cover such industries as metals, chemicals, sulphur and wood processing/ woodworking facilities.

Understanding dust explosions

Dust cloud flash fires and explosions can occur when combustible dust is dispersed in the air in sufficient concentration. They can happen in and around equipment such as powder conveyors, hoppers, silos, mixers, blenders, dryers, sifters, dust collectors/ bag houses and packaging machines.

Factors required for a dust explosion:

  • An explosible dust cloud (above a minimum explosible concentration)
  • An oxidant – usually just air
  • A sufficiently energetic ignition source – for example electrostatic spark, electrical spark, hot surface, material thermal decomposition – or simply a flame.

Your responsibility
under NFPA 61

As the owner or operator of a facility within the agricultural/ food sector, your responsibilities under NFPA 652 and NFPA 61 are as follows:

  • You should identify all credible fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards associated with your facility,
  • You should assess the consequences of credible fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards,
  • You should then manage all credible fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards you have found, and,
  • You should communicate these hazards to all personnel that could be affected.

You will certainly need to have performed a DHA (Dust Hazards Analysis) and recorded the findings (the deadline was June 2022).

How Stonehouse can
help you with NFPA 61

Our specialist fire and explosion consultants can bring to bear their knowledge, experience, and practical approach to guide you along the whole journey from Dust Hazards Analysis (DHA) to hazard elimination and control of risk. Our objective: to ensure you move to compliance in a safe, cost effective, and efficient way. Specifically, we can assist with:

  • The Dust Hazards Analysis (DHA): DHA is a systematic review to identify and evaluate potential dust fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards and is a requirement of NFPA 652 and NFPA 61. Your DHA must be conducted by someone with proven expertise in hazards associated with handling and processing of combustible particulate solids. Read more about Dust Hazards Analysis. A DHA undertaken by our dust explosion specialists at Stonehouse Process Safety will….
    • Provide independent, cost-effective advice on avoidance/control of explosible dust clouds, including dust accumulations, design concept, operation, maintenance of local exhaust ventilation, and housekeeping.
    • Consider elimination and control of Ignition Sources, including heat sources, friction and impact sparks, electrical arcs and sparks, self-heating, and electrostatic discharges and more.
    • Review existing protection measures against the consequences of an explosion and advise on explosion protection systems
    • Review avoidance/control of oxidant by design of dilution or even inert gas systems, considering Limiting Oxidant Concentration (LOC) values of powders processed.
  • Lab Combustibility Testing of Your Materials:  Through screening tests we can identify combustible dusts and fully characterize your materials when necessary. More information on our laboratory dust explosion tests is available here.
  • Process Safety Management Programs: We can help you develop the written management systems that are specifically required by NFPA 652 and NFPA 61 for the on-going management of dust fire, flash fire, explosion hazards. You can learn more about our work in Process Safety Management here.
  • Training/Competency Building: We can train your operating, engineering, and management staff to validate and assure the levels of understanding and experience exist within your workforce to implement and maintain the necessary on-going requirements of NFPA 652 and NFPA 61. You can learn more about our process safety training courses here.
  • On-going Review and Update:  NFPA 652 and NFPA 61 require that each DHA to be reviewed and updated at least EVERY 5 YEARS. You can learn more about our DHA review/ update service here.

For more information on how our specialist dust explosion consultants can help your organization with NFPA 61 compliance, please contact us on 609-455-0001 or email us at: