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Monday, January 26, 2015

How to contain aluminum dust

From Auto News:

 NADA » NADA Convention

How to contain aluminum dust?

Shops must put up curtain -- or a wall

Ford says a rubberized curtain will keep aluminum dust from settling on steel parts and corroding them. Some body shops say only a wall will do.




Published in Automotive News June 6, 2014

Curtains or walls? It's a big decision that Ford dealers with body shops face as they gear up to repair the 2015 aluminum-body F-150 pickup, arriving late this year.

Collision shops need either a curtain or wall to separate their aluminum body work from their steel body work. When aluminum dust ends up on a steel body part, a reaction called galvanic corrosion can produce an effect similar to rust over time.

There is even a small risk of fire if aluminum dust comes in contact with a spark.
Ford says floor-to-ceiling curtains, ventilation systems and special vacuums are sufficient to keep the metals from mixing, and some dealers and independent repair shops have decided to go that route.

Randall Reed, CEO of World Class Automotive Group of Dallas, says: "We are actually doing curtains in all five of the body shops.

"I think it's very sufficient, and with the vacuum system should be just fine."

Safety risk

But others want walls.

Todd Hoffman, vice president of Hoffman Ford in Harrisburg, Pa., says: "We're going to build the walls up. We may actually expand to a whole different location off site for a body shop. From what we're understanding from the big players in the paint business and body repair, it is a pretty significant safety risk to mix steel and aluminum."Speaking to Automotive News earlier this year, Paul Massie, Ford's collision marketing manager, said: "One of the things about our program that surprised the industry is that we didn't require a separate clean room."

Ford has said repeatedly that curtains provide sufficient separation. 
Larry Smith, president of Autometric Collision, said that two of his nine independent body shops in the Detroit area work on aluminum vehicles for luxury manufacturers including Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

Both of Smith's shops cordon off the aluminum work areas with curtains.
Smith's shops will be doing repairs on the aluminum F-150.

"Most of the manufacturers that have aluminum vehicles are satisfied that's going to be enough to keep the steel and aluminum dust from settling on the wrong species of cars," Smith says.
But as the volume of aluminum vehicles increases, Smith plans to have more permanent work areas in place.

He owns several buildings that could be converted to aluminum work centers that will be separate from the shop areas where his company works on steel vehicles.

'Not the sound way'

Lloyd Schiller, a consultant who advises dealerships on their service operations, is urging his clients to build walls.

"Rubberized curtains are not the sound way to keep the dust from comingling. Essentially, it's a very heavy duty shower curtain. The idea behind having only curtains is to separate steel filings and dust from aluminum filings and dust. I'm sure it will keep 70 to 80 percent of it from escaping, but there's still an opportunity for some of the dust to escape when it's not a sealed unit."

Schiller says erecting walls need not be an expensive proposition.

The dealerships can simply put up a galvanized steel wall with drywall or pressed particleboard panels.

"You're not talking about a structural wall with concrete blocks and bricks. There may come a time five years from now when everything you're doing is aluminum, and you tear that wall down."
Meanwhile, collision shops need to remove aluminum dust from the air to prevent fires and explosions.

"Aluminum dust in the correct concentration is explosive if it comes in contact with an ignition source," says Jason Bartanen, director of industry-technical relations for I-CAR, the nonprofit collision repair group that is organizing F-150 repair training for Ford dealers and independent collision shops.

Ford wants dealers to purchase special sparkless vacuums for collision shops.

Ford spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt says the company has reminded dealers and technicians that airborne dust, "from metals to wood, can be flammable, and proper ventilation practices should be followed."

By year end, Ford wants a network of about 1,500 aluminum-capable body shops, including about 800 dealerships and 700 independent shops. About half of Ford's 3,000 dealerships have body shops.
Ford maintains that most of its body shops are already capable of doing most repairs on the redesigned pickup.

But Ford is creating the Ford National Body Shop Network of dealers and independent shops capable of large structural repairs.

The network, whose members have the proper tools and training, will be Ford's conduit for insurance company repair referrals for the pickup.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@crain.com.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dust: Hidden Hazard Lurks

Dust: Hidden Hazard Lurks - From Chemical Processing



Dust: Hidden Hazard Lurks

Facility finds danger from accumulated dust and effectively addresses it


By Cyrus Fisher, Eli Lilly and Company



Combustible dust can pose a hidden hazard when accumulation occurs in unseen locations such as in mechanical spaces, above false ceiling, ventilation systems and dust collection systems. Such hazards may be particularly well hidden in certain pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities where use of clean rooms with surrounding mechanical areas are common and the scale of the equipment and facility
is relatively modest. Even small quantities of combustible dust may result in a dust cloud flash fire or an explosion capable of significant damage in a plant environment. Although events of this magnitude may not make headline news, the potential impact on an individual present during a flash fire could be life changing.

Figure 1. Inspection revealed that interior of dust collector contained an accumulation ½- to 1-in. thick.

So, here, I share an example that occurred at Eli Lilly and Company to show how combustible dust may become “hidden” within a dust collection system, and to describe a methodology for safe
combustible-dust removal, as well as actions that can prevent future problems.

This example comes from a pharmaceutical blending operation located in a typical clean room. Technicians are preparing to blend 110 kg of dried pharmaceutical powder. All surfaces within the
room are dust free and the polished stainless steel blender has just been cleaned. The technicians connect a small 2-in. ventilation trunk between the blender and a port on the clean room wall labeled “to dust collector.” The technicians then open the access cover of the blender and press a button to start the dust collector, which is located elsewhere. Seven bags, each containing 16 kg of dried powder, are charged to the blender through the opening. The technicians are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent inhalation of the dust but no dust is observed outside the opening. When the product charge is completed, technicians turn off the dust collector and disconnect the 2-in. ventilation trunk. The trunk is visually clean. The self-contained blending operation completes normally. All equipment and the room itself then are cleaned in preparation for the next batch. Lastly, the technicians leave the clean room to check for accumulation of material in a small drum under the dust collector; the drum is empty as always. The technicians know the routine well; they have completed these tasks at least once a week for the last ten years.

By their training, the technicians understand the powder they are handling is a combustible dust. They know the minimum ignition energy (MIE) has been tested at approximately 200 mJ with an average particle size of 27 microns, which means the risk of ignition from an electrostatic discharge from personnel is greatly reduced, and personnel grounding isn’t required [1]. The electrical outlets and switches in the clean room look different from others in the area, and signs hang on the doors
indicating the room is electrically classified as Class II, Division II for combustible dust. If technicians observe a dust cloud for any reason (e.g., a dropped product bag), they are to immediately leave the area until the cloud settles. In general, technicians believe little if any dusting occurs during loading of product to the blender — a belief supported by the lack of dusting seen during blender loading and emptying the dust collector discharge drum.

The technicians and technical support personnel assumed that because no dust is coming out of the dust collector, no dust is going in. The assumption was widely believed to be true and even documented in a previously completed formal hazard review. The idea that dust accumulation might be possible simply did not occur to those supporting the blending operation.

A TELLING INSPECTION
In 2012, the facility initiated a hazard review process for all solids handled at the site. This included looking specifically at the dust accumulation risk for each operation. One recommendation stemming from this activity was for engineering to perform an internal inspection of the blending operation dust collector.

Prior to the inspection, the team reviewed available design information for the dust collector and field-verified all ductwork. The system was designed for an airflow of 500 ft3/min to ensure  sufficient capture velocity at the blender opening during loading. The ductwork in the field begins at the clean room wall, where the duct diameter increases from 2 in. to 4 in. and then transitions to a diameter of 6 in. immediately prior to a 15-ft vertical riser. The duct then travels horizontally several hundred feet through multiple mechanical rooms before reaching the dust collector inlet plenum. Portions of this ductwork run above false ceilings. At the inlet plenum, the 6-in. duct expands to a 1-ft × 3-ft rectangle at which point it enters the dust collector. That unit, which is 1 ft in diameter and 3 ft in length, contains four cartridge filters. The dust collector is equipped with a differential-pressure pulsation system to clear the filters under conditions of high pressure drop. At the bottom
of the dust collector, a manual slide gate valve leads to the aforementioned drum for dust disposal.

During the engineering inspection, the four cartridge filters were removed and found to be heavily loaded with dust. Internal inspection of the dust collector revealed ½-in.+ layers of dust settled on all horizontal surfaces including the inlet plenum (Figure 1). Samples were taken and submitted for particle-size and MIE testing. The average particle size of the material in the dust collector was 12 microns, half the size of the bulk powder loaded to the blender. That in itself isn’t surprising because
the dust collector air stream primarily captures fines churned up during blender loading. The MIE for the material in the dust collector was approximately 25 mJ — an order of magnitude less than that of the bulk powder loaded into the blender! With an MIE as low as 25 mJ, the risk of ignition from electrostatic discharges becomes a greater hazard,necessitating enhanced safeguards including personnel grounding [1].

Upon discovery of this fine collected dust, planning commenced for its removal. Engineering personnel led the effort and got assistance from maintenance and operations. The cleaning scope included both the main body of the dust collector and all impacted ductwork. Engineering
developed a written cleaning plan. A hazard review team then performed a risk analysis of the proposal. Hazard review teams are routine at this facility due to the significant quantities of solvents utilized. However, site personnel were relatively inexperienced with combustible dust remediation. To ensure a robust review, corporate combustible-dust subject matter experts and the contractors selected to perform the cleaning joined site engineering, operations, maintenance and health/safety personnel to perform a what-if risk analysis of the written cleaning plan.

Using photographs from the field, engineering went over the entire dust collection system with the review team. The MIE data obtained for the dust then were used to list types of ignition sources that would have sufficient energy to ignite a dust cloud if one formed during the cleaning operation. The hazard review team next focused on two specific areas for risk reduction: 1) identifying safeguards that would prevent/minimize/contain disruption of the dust to prevent formation of a combustible dust cloud during cleaning; and 2) identifying safeguards to minimize all possible ignition sources in the event a combustible dust cloud inadvertently was created.

To minimize the risk of creating a dust cloud, the cleaning plan incorporated multiple  recommendations from the hazard review team. First, the order of line breaks and cleaning activities
were specified so as to remove dust from easy-to-access areas prior to performing higher-risk line breaks. The goal was to remove as much fuel from the system as possible before performing overhead work with reduced egress options. This included removal of the filter elements and
cleaning of the dust collector prior to disassembling overhead ductwork. Second, extra ductwork supports were installed. Adding these supports ensured the ductwork couldn’t accidently fall as it was disassembled, disturbing settled dust and potentially forming an ignitable dust cloud. Third, plastic sheeting and glove bags (similar to those used for asbestos remediation) isolated rooms and line breaks. These actions ensured that any dust disturbed wouldn’t be able to travel outside the boundaries of the work area, where measures to enhance protection against ignition also were being put in place.

Potential ignition sources were categorized, e.g., charge on metal surfaces (scaffolding, ductwork, etc), charge on personnel, charge on tools, the vacuum to be used for cleaning, and surrounding
electrical equipment. Again, the cleaning plan incorporated multiple recommendations from the hazard review team. Grounding wires were installed in multiple predefined locations including the ductwork (Figure 2), dust collector, scaffolding and any other potentially isolated metal surface. Engineering inspected the contractor air-powered HEPA vacuum equipment. Prior to the cleaning, which took place in August 2013, all operating equipment in the work area was shut down, and
an extensive lock-out/tag-out was performed for all electrically powered equipment. Lock out of electrical equipment was accomplished remotely in motor control centers or at electric breaker panels away from the work area. Equipment locked out included motors, heaters, power outlets and control panels. Immediately prior to performing work, engineering met with contractors and maintenance personnel to review the cleaning plan, PPE requirements, and combustible dust hazards. All
personnel were instructed to leave the area in the event of a dust cloud. “Danger” tape isolated the entire area; technicians posted at all entrances kept personnel out of the cleaning area.

The planning and coordination for the cleaning activity took several weeks but the cleaning itself required less than six hours. Approximately 10 kg of combustible dust were removed from the system and collected as a wet paste in the bottom of the contractor’s vacuum equipment. After cleaning, engineering inspected all ductwork, which was in like-new condition.

PREVENTING FUTURE PROBLEMS
Engineering initiated a root cause investigation into why dust had accumulated and what needed to be implemented to stop accumulation from occurring in the future. The root cause investigation identified two causal factors.

First, designers had inaccurate/incomplete process safety information when the dust collection system was installed over a decade prior to this event. Preliminary design documentation erroneously indicated the product wasn’t combustible. As a result, the dust collector system design didn’t
incorporate standards applicable to combustible dust (isolation/suppression systems, housekeeping program, etc.).

Second, multiple opportunities to identify the risk of accumulating material were missed even after the material was confirmed to be combustible. One opportunity came after several years of service when an initial combustible-dust hazard assessment was completed on the blending operation/dust collector. At the time, the facility had minimal organizational knowledge regarding combustible dust hazards. Technicians interviewed then stated that little dusting occurred during loading of the blender and no dust ever was discharged from the dust collector. These types of observations prompted the review team to conclude that no dust was being pulled into the dust collector system. The root cause
investigation found these observations/conclusions to be inaccurate. The lack of dusting at the blender was due to the successful operation of the dust collector (i.e., dust is pulled away from the operator as intended). The failure to discharge material from the dust collector was traced to a mechanical problem with the internal pulsation system, which likely never had functioned following initial installation. This explained the heavy loading seen on the filters.

Another opportunity to recognize that dust was accumulating arose during completion of routine airflow testing. The investigation found that a 50% drop in airflow was documented in the work history of the dust collector but not flagged as a potential dust-collector operations issue. The reduced airflow rate of 250 ft3/min sufficed to maintain operator protection from an industrial hygiene perspective, so no actions were taken to restore the airflow to the original design requirement of 500 ft3/min. The reduced flow and, thus, duct velocity accelerated accumulation. Generally, preventing the settling of materials similar to this product requires a minimum airflow rate of 2,500 ft/min [2]. At 250 ft3/min, the dust collector system was operating well below this minimum velocity in the 6-in.-diameter line that accounted for the majority of the ductwork in the system. In some cases, nearly 50% of the duct cross-sectional area was found to be plugged, particularly near the bottom of vertical risers where dust settling was prevalent.

Recommendations from the root cause investigation included: upgrading the system design to be suitable for combustible dust service; implementing routine internal inspections; establishing pass/fail criteria for duct velocity measurements; modifying duct sizing to increase airflow velocity; and setting up a program for regular internal cleaning.

The key takeaways from our experience are:

• Accurate material properties are essential for making informed risk-based decisions whenever handling combustible dust. The properties of a specific combustible dust material can vary greatly with changes in particle size. In our case, a 50% reduction in particle size resulted in an order-of-magnitude decrease in MIE and, thus, a far greater risk of a combustible dust flash-fire/explosion. Failure to understand this reduction in MIE might have resulted in less-stringent safeguards during
development of the cleaning plan.

• Having all affected parties and subject matter experts take part in performing a thorough hazard
analysis is invaluable in confirming that a written plan provides the safest possible path forward for executing a non-routine activity.

• An effective prework safety meeting ensures work is completed in the manner intended by the hazard review team and also provides a final opportunity to address concerns of those performing the work.

In the end, a significant amount of resources went into the uneventful cleaning of a small quantity of accumulated material. The results of the cleaning activity and subsequent investigation were communicated in multiple forums across the organization. Many committed team members actively participated in completing this work. Hopefully, this simple example results in positive outcomes for others vigilantly working to reduce combustible dust risk.


CYRUS FISHER is a consultant engineer for Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, IN. E-mail him at fisher_cyrus_a@lilly.com.

REFERENCES
1. “NFPA 77 – Recommended Practice on Static Electricity,” 2014 ed., National Fire Protection Assn., Quincy, MA (2013).
2. “Industrial Ventilation,” 25th ed., American Conf. of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, Cincinnati, OH (2004).

Monday, January 19, 2015

mistakes led to a dangerous fire at ink factory involving combustible dust

"the design and installation of the new dust collection system was done so poorly that it overheated within a few days of being activated, ignited spontaneously and caused an explosion that then released a fireball on seven workers."


The Record: Worker safety


January 18, 2015
   Last updated: Sunday, January 18, 2015, 1:21 AM



A US Ink worker being treated by an EMT after the explosion in 2012.


A US Ink worker being treated by an EMT after the explosion in 2012.


A FEDERAL investigation found that a series of mistakes led to a dangerous fire at an East Rutherford ink factory involving combustible dust in 2012. New Jersey needs stronger regulations to avoid potential disasters in the future.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent federal agency that looks at industrial chemical accidents and makes recommendations to governing bodies, released a report
Thursday detailing the problems at the US Ink facility. According to the report, the design and installation of the new dust collection system was done so poorly that it overheated within a few days of being activated, ignited spontaneously and caused an explosion that then released a fireball on seven workers.


Thankfully, no one died; the investigation showed that steps should have been taken to significantly increase the safety of the operation.


"The new system was not thoroughly commissioned. There was no confirmation of whether the system would work as configured, missing opportunities to find potential hazards," investigation supervisor Johnnie Banks said. "The design flaws were not revealed until the dust explosion."


Staff Writer James M. O'Neill reported that another avoidable problem was that the workers were not wearing flame-resistant clothing, even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that when there are flash fire or explosion hazards.


The investigation showed that US Ink didn't apply for a building permit because it thought a New Jersey building code exemption applied to the equipment. This is where the state needs to act on the CSB's recommendations.


There must be tighter regulations on dust-handling equipment. According to the investigation, New Jersey's current rules exempt "manufacturing, production and process equipment" from higher national fire-protection standards.


Rafael Moure-Eraso, the agency's chairman, said there have been at least 50 incidents involving combustible dust at facilities across the country, killing 29 workers and sending 161 to the hospital, between2008 and 2012. "We consider this to be a national problem," he said.


The agency also wants the state to train local safety officials on the national fire protection standards for combustible dust, since they are the ones making inspections at the facilities.


Increasing the thoroughness of inspections on this industry should not be seen as a burden. The people at risk here are the companies' employees, as well as local officials and emergency responders, who will have to deal with the consequences when a fiery incident like the 2012 one occurs.


Employees at US Ink suffered first- and second-degree burns and eventually returned to work. The next time this happens, the situation could be even more tragic.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Poor Design and Failure to Test Dust Collection System Among Causes of U.S. Ink Flash Fire

From U.S. Chemical Safety Board

CSB - U.S. CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD -- An independent federal agency investigating chemical accidents to protect workers, the public, and the environment


CSB Names Poor Design and Failure to Test Dust
Collection System Among Causes of U.S. Ink New Jersey Flash Fire that
Burned Seven Workers in 2012;


OSHA Again Urged to Issue New Combustible Dust Regulations  
East Rutherford, New Jersey, January 15, 2015—The flash fire that burned seven workers, one seriously, at a U.S. Ink plant in New Jersey in 2012 resulted from the accumulation of combustible dust inside a poorly designed dust collection system that had been put into operation
only four days before the accident, an View of Dust Collector at US Ink investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has found.



In a report released today
and scheduled to be presented for board consideration at a CSB public
meeting in East Rutherford this evening, the investigation team
concludes that the system was so flawed it only took a day to accumulate enough combustible dust and hydrocarbons in the duct work to overheat, ignite spontaneously, cause an explosion in the rooftop dust collector,
and send back a fiery flash that enveloped seven workers.

U.S. Ink is a subsidiary of Sun Chemical, a global graphic arts corporation which has some 9,000 employees worldwide. U.S. Ink manufactures black and color-based inks at seven U.S. locations
including East Rutherford. A key step in the ink production process is mixing fine particulate solids, such as pigments and binders, with liquid oils in agitated tanks.

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “The findings presented in the CSB report under consideration show that neither U.S. Ink nor its international parent company, Sun Chemical, performed a thorough hazard analysis, study, or testing of the system before it was commissioned in
early October 2012. The original design was changed, the original company engineer retired prior to completion of the project, and no testing was done in the days before the operation of the black-ink
pre-mixing room production was started up.”

The CSB found that the ductwork conveyed combustible, condensable vapors above each of three tanks in the mixing room, combining with combustible particles of dust of carbon black and Gilsonite used in the production of black ink.

Investigation Supervisor Johnnie Banks said, “The closed system air flow was insufficient to keep dust and sludge from accumulating inside the air ducts.  But to make matters worse, the new dust collector design included three vacuuming hoses which were attached to the closed-system
ductwork, used to pick up accumulated dust, dirt and other material from the facility’s floor and other level surfaces as a ‘housekeeping’ measure.  The addition of these contaminants to the system ductwork doomed it to be plugged within days of startup.”

The report describes a dramatic series of events that took place within minutes on October 9, 2012.  About 1 p.m., an operator was loading powdered Gilsonite, a combustible carbon-containing mineral,
into the bag dump station near the pre-mixing room when he heard what he called a strange, squealing sound.  He checked some gauges in the control room, and as he was leaving he saw a flash fire originating from the bag dump where he had just been working.  He left to notify his supervisor.  At about that same time, other workers heard a loud thump that shook the building.

In response to the flash from the bag dump station and the thump, workers congregated at the entrance to the pre-mix room.  One worker spotted flames coming from one of the tanks.  He obtained a fire extinguisher but before he could use it, he saw an orange fireball erupt and advance toward him.  He squeezed the handle on the extinguisher as he jumped from some stairs, just as the flames engulfed him and six other employees who were standing in the doorway.

The CSB determined that overheating and spontaneous ignition which likely caused the initial flash fire at the bag dump was followed by ignition of accumulated sludge-like material and powdery dust mixture of Gilsonite and carbon black in the duct work above tank 306.  Meantime, the dust collection system, which had not been turned off, continued to move burning material up toward the dust collector on the building’s roof, where a sharp pressure rise indicated an imminent explosion. This was contained by explosion suppression equipment, but the resulting pressure reversed the air flow, back to the pre-mix room, where a second flash fire occurred, engulfing the workers.

Investigation Supervisor Banks said, “The new system was not thoroughly commissioned.  There was no confirmation of whether the system would work as configured, missing opportunities to find potential hazards.  The design flaws were not revealed until the dust explosion.”

The report’s safety management analysis points to a lack of oversight by company engineers of the work done by installation contractors. The company chose not to perform a process hazard analysis or management of change analysis – required by company policy for the installation of new
processing equipment – because it determined it was merely replacing a previous dust collection system in kind.  However, the new system in fact was of an entirely different design.

Considering the emergency response following the flash fire and dust collector explosion, CSB Investigators found that while workers had received training in emergency response situations, they did not follow those procedures, because U.S. Ink had not developed and implemented an
effective hazard communication and response plan.  A fire coordinator was designated to use the public address system to announce a fire and also pull the alarm box. But because the system was not shut down immediately after the first flash fire, he was among the injured and could not perform his duties.

The CSB report’s regulatory analysis highlights the need for a national general industry combustible dust standard which the agency has long recommended that OSHA promulgate, putting in on the CSB’s “Most Wanted” list in 2013, following years of urging action as dust explosions continued to occur in industry.  The report, if adopted by the board, would reiterate the CSB’s original  recommendation to OSHA, and also recommend OSHA broaden the industries it includes in its
current National Emphasis Program on mitigating dust hazards, to include printing ink manufacturers.

Chairperson Moure-Eraso said, “Although OSHA’s investigation of this accident deemed it a combustible dust explosion, it did not issue any dust-related citations, doubtless hampered by the fact that there is no comprehensive combustible dust regulatory standard.  In U.S. Ink’s case –
and thousands of other facilities with combustible dust – an OSHA standard would likely have required compliance with National Fire Protection Association codes that speak directly to such critical factors as dust containment and collection, hazard analysis, testing, ventilation, air flow, and fire suppression.”

The CSB report notes that the volume of air flow and the air velocity in the company’s dust collection system was significantly below industry recommendations – which, in the absence of a federal
combustible dust regulation, are essentially voluntary.  The report states the ductwork design did not comply in several respects with guidelines set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Industrial Ventilation Manual.  Nor did the system’s design, the CSB said, comply with the voluntary requirements of NFPA 91, which states: “All ductwork shall be sized to provide the air volume and air velocity necessary to keep the duct interior clean and free of residual material.”

Chairperson Moure-Eraso said, “A national combustible dust standard would include requirements to conform to what are now largely voluntary industry guidelines and would go far in preventing these dust explosions.”

The report cites gaps in New Jersey’s regulatory system, noting the state’s Uniform Construction Code Act has adopted the International Building Code (which references NFPA dust standards) but has also exempted “manufacturing, production and process equipment.”  A proposed CSB recommendation to New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs calls on the regulatory agency to revise the state’s administrative code to remove this exemption so that dust handling equipment would be designed to meet national fire code requirements.  The state is also urged to implement training for local code officials as local jurisdictions enforce the code, and to promulgate a regulation that requires all occupancies handling hazardous materials to inform the local enforcement agency of any type of construction or installation of equipment at an industrial or manufacturing facility.

Chairperson Moure-Eraso said, “Events leading to this accident began even before the earliest planning stages, when the company failed to properly oversee the design, construction and testing of a potentially hazardous system.  The victims have suffered the consequences.  We hope our recommendations are adopted so that these terrifying industrial dust explosion accidents will stop.”

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen, cell 202-446-8094 or Sandy Gilmour, Public Affairs, cell 202-251-5496.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Safety Awakenings Website - Free Safety Resources

Programs « Categories « Safety Awakenings



Updated: Safety Awakenings is a website by Dave Weber, featuring  900 Power
Points, 500 Videos, 75 eBooks, in addition to various other safety
talks, videos, podcasts, webinars, and 35 various Apps for safety.




 

Claims, Cases, Lost Time and the Hidden Cost of Hazards

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Monday, December 15, 2014

On Location: Koda Energy

Designing for Maximum Safety

Biomass Magazine - The Latest News on Biomass Power, Fuels and Chemical

On Location: Koda Energy

Executive Editor Tim Portz paid a visit toeditorial board member Stacy Cook from Koda Energy to get a cover photo. He got a cover photo and a tour of Koda's new fuel receiving infrastructure, designed for maximum safety.
By Tim Portz | December 12, 2014


If you’ve heard me talk about Biomass Magazine for more than 10 minutes before, chances are you’ve heard me mention the role that our editorial board plays in the magazine’s planning and production. They truly are invaluable. This week, our team was in the middle of pulling the January
2015 together. I realized last week that so far we didn’t have a great cover option. No problem. Editorial board to the rescue.


I called Stacy Cook, VP and General Manager at Shakopee, Minnesota’s Koda Energy. Not only has Stacy has been a consistent participant on our monthly story pitch meetings for well over two years, his plant happens to be less than a 20 minute drive from my house.  I called Stacy late last week and asked if I could come down and shoot some images that might work for a cover. I was welcomed with open arms.


I’ve been to Koda Energy a number of times. 3-4 at least. As I pulled in on Tuesday, however, I got turned around and wasn’t quite sure I recognized the place. I wound my way behind a large building and found myself approaching a parking lot that looked more familiar. I grabbed my gear and headed into the office. Stacy met me near the front desk.


“This place looks different,” I remarked.

Stacy smiled and noted that since I was last there, the silo yard they used to use to receive and store biomass was completely gone. The building that had thrown me was the new fuel receiving and handling complex.

For the next 30 minutes, I got a whirlwind tour of the plant’s new addition. Still, I was there for a cover shot and so far, I wasn’t sure I’d gotten what I needed. At some point, I walked by two of Koda’s fuel crew and knew immediately that I’d found my cover model. Joel Sadden is a fuel handler hired at Koda nine months ago. Joel is a big guy. A radio was hanging from his sweatshirt and on his full brimmed hard hat he had affixed a head lamp. Earlier I had walked by a very large pipe wrench
and asked Joel if he would simply stand in place, holding the wrench.

Steam billowed behind him and just through the steam I could make out the concrete silo’s at the Rahr Malting Co. A significant amount of Koda’s biomass comes to them from the residues produced by Rahr. I snapped the shutter and felt like I finally had my cover.


This morning I realized how much Stacy had been telling me as I shot that morning. I also realized, with a camera in my numb hands, I’d written very little of it down. What Stacy and his team have done is impressive, so I called him to remind myself of what I had seen.


In April of 2013, there was an explosion that severely damaged the silo yard that used to receive and hold biomass at the plant. Stacy’s team went to work on designing a completely reimagined fuel handling system. The goal was to build the safest system possible. Silos have been replaced by a covered, two bay concrete building.  Each bay terminates at grated floor and biomass is pushed over the grate falling onto an underfloor reclaimer. Stacy pointed out the extensive deployment of GreCon spark detection and arrest system. Koda Energy hired general contractor Greystone Construction to handle the buildings, structures and foundations. Koda handled the equipment selection and procurement and Barr Engineering was engaged to make sure it all fit together nicely. Stacy’s very proud of what they’ve built. That is plain to see.


I’m happy to report that Stacy has graciously offered his facility and his experiences in rebuilding the fuel receiving and handling facility as a tour stop at this year’s International Biomass Conference
& Expo which I will be mentioning on next Tuesday’s preview webinar.

If you are considering participating in that event in any way (speaker, exhibitor, attendee) I’d urge you give our preview 25 minutes. We’re excited about this year’s event.


Thanks again to Stacy for his hospitality. Thanks also to Joel for being a good sport and great cover subject.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wood Pellet Mill Explosion

Mill Explosion Injures Three | From Powder/Bulk Solids

Mill Explosion Injures Three

October 13, 2014
Three mill workers were injured Thursday morning in an explosion at a wood pellet plant in northern British Columbia that was recently fined for "repeated" safety violations.

According to Leroy Reitsma, president of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., the incident happened at about 8am at a facility near Burns Lake operated by the company. Three workers were injured – one seriously.

The cause of the fire was unknown, but was said to have started inside a drying machine during a maintenance shutdown. An investigation is ongoing
Two fatal explosions in 2012 at the Burns Lake facility and one in Prince George were linked to combustible wood dust. It is not known if wood dust was the cause of Thursday’s explosion.

The plant was the site of another explosion in 2012. No one was injured in that incident, which occurred in a different area of the plant.

Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. has been cited several times in the past year for dust buildup at several facilities –including the Burns Lake plant – and was the site of a previous explosion in 2012. No one was injured in that explosion.

For related articles, news, and equipment reviews, visit our Explosion Protection & Safety Equipment Zone

Monday, November 24, 2014

Grain Dust Labeled a Hazardous Chemical

Grain and other Combustible Dusts are now Labeled as Hazardous Chemical

From FarmFutures.com/blog


Grain Dust Labeled a Hazardous Chemical?

Defending Agriculture

New regulations mean dust at grain elevators may be treated like hazardous chemical release

Published on: November 12, 2014
In late October the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an opinion supporting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on regulating businesses that handle and process grain and other agricultural products which create dust.

The case was a challenge to OSHA's revised Hazard Communication Standard, which in effect states that grain dust is a hazardous chemical. But you may want a little background on how the  Government's regulatory wheels spin before this makes much sense.

OSHA already sets workplace requirements for the control of grain dust which may create fires, explosions and safety hazards associated with grain handling facilities.  OSHA's present rule applies to grain elevators, feed mills, flour mills, rice mills, pelletizing plants, dry corn mills, soybean flaking operations, and dry grinding operations of soy cake.  The 1987 rule made it clear that such facilities are to control fugitive grain dust which was defined as combustible dust particles of a certain size.


New regulations mean dust at grain elevators may be treated like hazardous chemical release
New regulations mean dust at grain elevators may be treated like hazardous chemical release

Also, OSHA has been told by Congress to keep its hands off of farm grain storage operations with 10 or fewer employees.

The OSHA Act of 1970 allows the Secretary of Labor to promulgate work place safety and health standards. The Act wants "…to insure that employees are apprised of all hazards to which they are exposed."

With this background, OSHA in 2012 issued a "Hazard Communication Standard".
The revised standard simply required all employers across industries to develop a program for classifying the dangers of workplace hazardous chemicals and conveying those dangers to their employees.

The National Oilseed Processors and the American Feed Industry Association challenged the rule. OSHA said it was issuing the rule to conform to the Globally Harmonized System.

OSHA said that combustible dust is a dangerous hazardous chemical. OSHA further noted that "dusts are known to be subject to deflagration and subsequent explosion…" However, OSHA did not include in this proposed HCS rule a definition of combustible dust.

The petitioners objected to the HCS rule and noted that OSHA in 2009 issued a proposed rule on combustible dust which has yet to be issued by the Agency.

Incredible admission

The three-judge panel on the court made an incredible admission when it suggested it has difficulty with such cases involving dust from agricultural products. It said such regulations are "…rooted in
inferences from complex scientific and factual data, which often necessarily involve highly speculative projections of technological development in areas wholly lacking in scientific and economic certainty."

In essence the court was saying it does not understand the factual background at all.

The petitioners contended they had no opportunity to comment on the inclusion of combustible dust from grain in the final HCS rule because combustible grain dust was not mentioned in the proposed rule.

The court made it clear that industry knows very well what constitutes combustible dust. It tells industry petitioners that they need only to read from OSHA's National Emphasis Program which defines combustible dust as well as agricultural dust.

Agricultural dust is defined as "any finely divided solid agricultural material 420 microns or smaller in diameter…that presents a fire or explosion hazard when dispersed and ignited in air." The petitioners were told they need not worry about the HCS not defining combustible dust because there were plenty of definitions and industry only need to read and follow them.

The trade associations also claimed the new rule violated constitutional due process because the term "combustible dust" is not sufficiently clear. The court made short work of this argument by simply
saying your argument fails on the merits.

OSHA's rule and the Court of Appeals make it clear combustible dust is a hazardous chemical. Both made clear that employers must control fugitive dust which may become combustible. As a result, grain dust must be treated just as any hazardous chemical release.

The opinions of Gary Baise are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

The opinions above are not necessarily those of IndustrialFirePrevention.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Spontaneous Combustion Destroys Grain Plant


From Chem.info

Spontaneous Combustion Destroys Grain Plant

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 1:26pm

(AP)

— Investigators in western New York say spontaneous combustion of
animal feed started the fire that destroyed a large grain mill and
storage facility operated by Minnesota-based Land O' Lakes. Fire crews
from more than two dozen departments battled the fire that broke out
Saturday night at Commodity Resource Corp. in the Livingston County town
of Caledonia, 15 miles south of Rochester.

The company says the site is the largest dairy feed manufacturing
facility and dry fertilizer distribution center in the region. The plant
was closed at the time of the fire.

On Tuesday, Caledonia Deputy Chief John Murray told media outlets the
fire was caused by spontaneous combustion. That's the same thing that
sparked a September fire at a Cargill feed plant in Salem near the
Vermont border.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

DC Circuit rejects challenge to OSHA Hazardous Communication Standard

Lexology


DC Circuit rejects challenge to the revised OSHA Hazardous Communication Standard

From: Blog Gravel2Gavel Construction Law Blog

 Author page »

On October 24, 2014, the D.C. Circuit rejected a challenge to the revised OSHA Hazardous Communication Standard insofar as it applies to "combustible dust". The case is National Oilseed Processors Association, et al., v. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, et al.  The Standard was substantially revised in 2012 to conform with the Globally Harmonized System, a uniform international chemical labeling system. The Hazard Communication, 77 Fed. Reg. 17,574 (Mar. 26, 2012) ("Final Rule") designated "combustible dust" as a hazardous chemical subject to the
Standard, although OSHA has yet to develop a workplace standard addressing the hazards of combustible dust in the workplace. This decision may be of interest to all manufacturers and employers subjectto the Hazard Communication Standard; it places in context the development of the rule over the past 30 years, and demonstrates again how difficult it is to have such rules overturned.


The National Oilseed Processors Association includes in its membership the owners and operators of grain handling businesses who have a keen interest in this new standard. The Association argued, and
the court rejected, contentions that it was not provided adequate notice of the inclusion of combustible dust in the rule, that OSHA's decision was not supported by substantial evidence as the statute requires, and that their constitutional Due Process rights were violated in that the agency, by failing to define "combustible dust", did not provide fair warning of the agency's enforcement measures.


HazCom Rule Addresses Combustible Dust

Bloomberg BNA


"There is a “general consensus” on what constitutes combustible dust"

"The final rule, as well as a guidance document issued in 2013, “lay out reasonably consistent and
clear instructions” on how employers should decide whether they have a combustible dust hazard, the judge said."


HazCom Rule Can Address Combustible Dust, Court Says in Rejecting Industry Challenge


Monday, October 27, 2014



Oct. 24 — A federal appeals court denied a petition Oct. 24 to vacate the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration's Hazard Communication Standard as it applies to combustible dust.


The petitioners argued that the Hazard Communication Standard—a final rule—should be vacated because OSHA failed to give adequate notice that combustible dust would be included in the rule and that combustible dust should instead be addressed in a pending rulemaking on the subject. They also told a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the final rule was unconstitutionally vague because it failed to define “combustible dust.”


The petitioners, which include the National Oilseed Processors Association, the Corn Refiners Association, the National Grain and Feed Association and the American Feed Industry Association, argued that they hadn't received adequate notice from OSHA that combustible dust from grain would be among the items included in the Hazard Communication Standard.


It wasn't mentioned in the 2006 advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the petitioners argued. Since
combustible dust had been regulated since 1987 by the grain handling standard, the petitioners said, they couldn't have anticipated that it would be addressed in this final rule.


The groups represent companies involved in grain handling as part of their agricultural and industrial operations, including Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill Inc., Southern States Cooperative Inc. and Perdue AgriBusiness LLC.


Government lawyers, in a brief filed June 5, argued that the grain handling groups know what combustible dust is—even absent a specific definition—for the purpose of complying with OSHA's grain handling standard and that the agency's proposed hazard communication standard explicitly discussed combustible dust, and stakeholders submitted comments both for and against that proposal.

History Supports OSHA

Writing for the panel, Judge Judith W. Rogers disagreed with the petitioners, noting that combustible dust was addressed in OSHA's 2009 notice of proposed rulemaking.


Rogers added that OSHA had issued interpretive letters saying that its standard would cover grain and other agricultural products as far back as 1986. In 1994, she wrote, OSHA rejected the grain industry's argument that grain dust shouldn't be covered by the Hazard Communication Standard.


The petitioners also argued that, statutorily, rules on combustible dust should be covered under a pending rulemaking on the subject rather than in the Hazard Communication Standard because there is as yet no clear definition of what constitutes combustible dust. Existing standards from OSHA and private industry are inconsistent and haven't been reconciled by rulemaking, the petitioners argued.

‘Operative Definition.'

The judge disagreed,saying that OSHA has supported an “operative definition” of dust in its National Emphasis Program on combustible dust.

“The various government and industry definitions of combustible dust are not as different as petitioners suggest: each definition, with varying phrasing, refers similarly to particles that may explode under certain conditions.”


Because, in the court's view, there is a “general consensus” on what constitutes combustible dust, OSHA could have reasonably concluded that it didn't need to spell out a uniform definition in its final rule.

Rejecting the petitioners' claim that OSHA's final rule is unconstitutionally vague, Judge Rogers said
the rule, as well as a guidance document issued in 2013, “lay out reasonably consistent and clear instructions” on how employers should decide whether they have a combustible dust hazard.


Rogers rejected the petitioners' claim that, by failing to provide a definition, OSHA rendered its final rule unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Due Process Clause. The final rule, as well as a
guidance document issued in 2013, “lay out reasonably consistent and clear instructions” on how employers should decide whether they have a combustible dust hazard, the judge said.


The court concluded by noting that the petitioners had argued that the final rule violates their First Amendment rights by requiring them to communicate combustible dust hazards. However, the judge concluded, petitioners made this argument in a footnote, and the D.C. Circuit generally doesn't
address an argument “if a party buries it in a footnote and raises it in only a conclusory fashion.”

Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson and Thomas B. Griffith joined in the opinion.

Donald C. McLean of Arent Fox LLP represented the petitioners at oral argument. OSHA attorney Louise M. Betts represented the government.



Text of the opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Natl_Oilseed_Processors_Assoc_et_al_v_OSHA_et_al_Docket_No_120122/4.

 

Friday, October 24, 2014

OSHA Stalls on Combustible Dust, NFPA Prepares New Standards


From Composites Manufacturing Magazine

OSHA Stalls on Combustible Dust, but NFPA Prepares New Standards


OSHA’s combustible dust rulemaking has been delayed, while the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is adding a new standard to address hazard  identification and control. These were key messages presented September  20 at a Small Business Administration event attend by ACMA staff.

The dust from grinding or cutting even highly filled composite laminates is  “combustible” when tested using OSHA’s approved test methods. OSHA has cited several composites manufacturers for failure to comply with the current version of NFPA Standard 654, notably for poor housekeeping and
locating cyclones and other dust collection equipment indoors.

Under OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for combustible dust, the agency is enforcing NFPA standards while it develops its own combustible dust rule. NFPA 654 is the standard for preventing fire and dust explosions from the manufacturing, processing, and handling of combustible particulate solids. Other NFPA standards apply to the hazards of agricultural, metals, wood and sulfur dusts.

According to the September 20 presentation, OSHA has acknowledged problems with the rulemaking. The agency is having trouble finding an approach that covers a wide variety of materials, process and equipment, and devising an enforceable definition of combustible dust.

In the meantime, OSHA is looking for other ways to address combustible dust hazards. Last
year’s update to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, for example, classified combustible dust as a “hazardous chemical” and requires employers to provide warnings to workers and customer about hazards and controls.

OSHA has reportedly contributed to the development of a new standard, NFPA 652, which will provide the basic principles of and requirements for identifying and managing the fire and explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solids, and will direct users to other NFPA standards for industry and commodity-specific hazards, such as NFPA 654.

The Chemical Safety Board on July 25 issued its first ever “Most Wanted Safety Improvement” designation to highlight the importance of OSHA issuing a standard to address combustible dust
hazards. Several recent combustible dust incidents have killed and injured many workers.

A task group of ACMA’s Government Affairs Committee is reviewing the drafts of the proposed new NFPA 652 standard and the revised NFPA 654 standard. The deadlines for submission of comments are November 15, 2013 for NFPA 652, and July 2, 2014 for NFPA 654.

Explosion, two-alarm fire at wood pellet manufacturer


Explosion, two-alarm fire damages Banks wood pellet manufacturer

on July 31, 2014 at 8:37 PM, updated August 01, 2014 at 6:16 AM 


A wood pellet manufacture in Banks closed for the day after an explosion and two-alarm fire damaged the business early Thursday.

Four employees safely escaped the fire at West Oregon Wood Products on Northwest Sunset Avenue, said Banks Fire District  Chief Brian Coussens. The official cause of the explosion and fire are
still under investigation. The business creates wood pellets for stoves.

The incident was reported about 3:15 a.m., and the business' president, Mike Knobel, said equipment related to air filtration in the pellet creation process is suspected to have caused the explosion.

Several pieces of production equipment sustained severe fire-related damages, Coussens said. The blaze was extinguished with no injuries.

Knobel said he was grateful to the responding firefighters and that millwrights were assisting in inspecting the site to determine a cause.

The company has another plant in Columbia City and the fire in Banks isn't expected to affect West Oregon Wood Products' inventory, according to Knobel.

"We'll be down," he said, "but it will be for a short time."


Rebecca Woolington of The Oregonian staff contributed to this report.
-- Everton Bailey Jr.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Idaho Wood Pellet Plant Burns to Ground | Firehouse


Wood Pellet Plant Burns to Ground in Idaho




Aug. 05--GRANGEVILLE -- A wood pellet manufacturing building was destroyed by fire late Monday about a mile north of here along U.S. Highway 95.

The main production building owned by Rocky Canyon Pellet Company caught fire about 6 p.m. Monday, said Grangeville Rural Fire Chief Danny Tackett, and burned to the ground within less than three hours. The company makes pellets for wood stoves.

"It had a head start on us," Tackett said Monday night. "There was a lot of dust inside the building. It was an old building; it used to be an old horse barn."

This is the fourth time in the past eight or nine years, Tackett said, that the fire department has been called to a fire at the location.

Adjacent buildings, including a residence, were not harmed, he said, and no one was hurt in the fire. Equipment and stacks of pellets inside the building burned in the blaze, he said.

The cause of the fire was not known Monday night. Tackett said a state fire inspector is likely to visit the site within the next couple of days to determine the cause.

He did not know whether the building was insured.

Ten firefighters and three fire trucks were called to the scene. Firefighters were assisted by crews from the U.S. Forest Service, who helped ensure the fire did not spread to nearby grassy fields; Idaho
Forest Group; and Primeland Corp., which helped supply water.

Tackett said the owner of the company, Lot Smith of Grangeville, intends to resume production when the damage is repaired.


Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com (208) 983-2326.
Copyright 2014 - Lewiston Tribune, Idaho

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Three injured in wood pellet mill explosion


Three injured in Burns Lake wood pellet mill explosion (updated)

 
 
One man suffered third-degree burns and two other employees were injured in an explosion at a wood pellet plant in Burns Lake on Thursday. Leroy Reitsma, president of Pinnacle Renewable Energy plant said a "fire-related incident" happened at the Burns Lake mill, located on Highway 16 east of Burns Lake, at around 8 a.m. Photograph by: Pinnacle Renewable Energy, ...

One man suffered third-degree burns and two other employees were injured in an explosion at a wood pellet plant in Burns Lake on Thursday.

Leroy Reitsma, president of the Pinnacle Renewable Energy plant said a “fire-related incident” happened at the Burns Lake mill, located on Highway 16 east of Burns Lake, at about 8 a.m. He said the fire broke out inside of some equipment used to dry wood fibre and it caused an explosion.

Pinnacle has been fined on several occasions for safety issues. In May, the pellet plant in Burns Lake was fined $48,483 for a failed safety inspection in December related to combustible dust, while its plant in Strathnaver south of Prince George was fined $36,223, also for safety lapses. Its plant in Quesnel was fined $31,380 following an inspection in May.

The fines were revealed in a Vancouver Sun report in August that showed seven of 10 wood pellet manufacturers failed WorkSafeBC inspections, according to information obtained through a freedom of information request.

Reitsma said Thursday’s explosion happened during a routine maintenance shutdown and the company is working with WorkSafeBC to investigate what happened.

WorkSafeBC received a call shortly after 9 a.m. and sent two investigators to the scene, said Scott McCloy, a spokesman for the work safety agency.

The Burns Lake plant was last inspected on June 17, and no problems were found, said McCloy, adding that “combustible dust issues were being managed.”

Other pellet plants that have received stop work orders over safety concerns are Okanagan Pellet in West Kelowna and Pacific BioEnergy in Prince George.

Pellet plants use wood shavings and sawdust that are compressed into pellets, which are used to fire boilers that produce electricity and steam, or are burned in wood stoves for heat.

An explosion caused extensive damage at Pacific BioEnergy’s pellet plant in Prince George in December 2010, where dust was cited as a factor ignited by a spark. That incident followed back-to-back explosions that rocked the pellet plant in March 2008.

WorkSafeBC has been conducting periodic inspection blitzes after explosions at two sawmills killed four workers and injured dozens of others in 2012.

The safety agency’s focus has mainly been on sawmills — which are showing some improvement in handling dust — but it has also been checking other wood plants.

Pellet plants have experienced explosions in the past, but no workers had been injured until now.
Firefighters from Burns Lake rushed to the plant around 8:30 a.m. By the time they arrived, the flames had been extinguished by its built-in suppression system, according to a statement from the municipality.

Babine Lake First Nation Chief Wilf Adam said he went to the Burns Lake hospital after he heard about the explosion because several members work at the mill. He witnessed one young man being brought in on a stretcher, while two other young men walked into the hospital with facial injuries.
“Two of the men looked really young, and they had bandages on their faces, but they looked like they were OK,” he said.

An employee reached Thursday afternoon refused to comment on the explosion, saying his employer told workers not to speak to the media.

RCMP Cpl. Dave Tyreman said the plant was evacuated after the explosion and about 30 employees were taken to a safe area.

The cause of the fire is unknown and RCMP and WorkSafeBC will continue to investigate.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, who oversees WorkSafeBC and implemented recent government changes to mill inspection procedures, noted that the mill had been inspected in June and there were no problems. As of Oct. 1, the government has two dedicated inspectors who examine pellet mills in the province on a monthly basis, she said Thursday at the legislature.

That development came after a report by government-appointed reviewer Gord Macatee into inspection problems at the province’s WorkSafeBC branch, which led to a lack of charges at other mill explosions, Bond said.

“There are 10 facilities in the province and we recognized after the Macatee report there needed to be a focused initiative to deal with pellet plants,” said Bond.
“I don’t want to speculate on what happened here. I’m told that the mill was actually in maintenance mode at the time of the incident.”

Recent WorkSafeBC changes mean that if inspectors find any reason for possible charges relating to the Pinnacle explosion that a separate investigative team will be brought in to preserve evidence related to pursuing that charge, Bond said.

“I wish I could promise to British Columbians today that we would not have workplace incidents,” Bond said. “I wish I could do that and sadly I can’t. What I can do is ensure the process we have in place creates the safest workplaces possible and when there is a tragic or unfortunate incident that we investigate it properly and make sure there are consequences when appropriate to employers.”

The Canadian Wood Pellet Association and The B.C. Forest Safety Council are working together to improve dust safety with the formation of a committee that includes all pellet manufacturers in B.C. A workshop in dust safety was held recently in Prince George.

With files from Gord Hoekstra, Brian Morton and Matthew Robinson
ticrawford@vancouversun.com