Can Flour Dust Be Dangerous?

Can Flour Dust Be Dangerous?

Flour is used as an ingredient in many foods. It is a powder made from various grains. Because it is a basic ingredient used in baking, workers in the baking industry are constantly exposed to it. Floating flour particles can cause what is also known as baker’s asthma as it gets inhaled and irritates the respiratory tract.

flour dust on a wooden table

Image Source: Flickr

How workers are exposed
Flour is widely used in the baking industry, but the following examples are some of the activities wherein a lot of airborne flour dust can be observed:

  • Putting flour into mixers
  • Dusting surfaces with flour
  • Dry sweeping flour dust
  • Throwing away empty flour bags

The risk of being exposed to flour dust is much higher in larger businesses such as commercial bakeries, grinding mills or packaging plants.


The risks
The presence of flour dust can cause inhalation or combustion and explosion.
The hazards of being exposed to flour dust depend on the concentration and duration of exposure. Exposure at low measures and frequency might not cause symptoms to show for up to 30 years. It’s also important to note that artificial additives to flour may cause more irritation for the respiratory tract.
Inhaling flour dust may cause the following:

Short-term exposure

  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Breathlessness

Long-term exposure

  • Occupational asthma

Because flour is so finely ground, enough concentration of its dust in an enclosed area can cause a large explosion even with just a simple spark.


How to reduce the risks
The most efficient method for reducing the risk of exposure is eliminating flour dust. Because this isn’t always possible, there are other risk controls you can implement. Start by asking yourself the following questions:


Elimination or substitution
The most effective control is to fully eliminate the source of hazard by substituting a safer method or ingredient.

  • Is it possible to use a different method that creates less flour dust?


Engineering controls
Physical alterations to the facility, machinery, or processes can lessen exposure to flour dust.

  • Is it possible to set up an extraction system?
  • Can ventilation be enhanced?
  • Can you start to use a HEPA vacuum filter for cleaning?


Administrative controls
Administrative controls include changes to rules and regulations, providing awareness materials, and training.

  • Are warning signs posted in work areas?
  • Are workers well aware of procedures to minimize the spread of dust?
  • Are work areas properly cleaned and maintained?


Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Another control must be used together with PPE because it is the least efficient among all controls.

  • Are workers using PPE when cleaning up and doing dusty tasks?
  • Are PPE checked regularly to ensure they are properly working?

For more information on safety measures you can put in place at your workplace, contact us below!



Working Safety Solutions
#200-4170 Still Creek Drive, Burnaby, B.C.