Monday, February 8, 2016

Resolute fined after worker burned in dust explosion on wood biomass boiler | Woodworking Network

From Woodworking Network

Resolute fined after worker burned in dust explosion on wood biomass boiler

- Lumber firm Resolute Forest Products Canada Inc., owner of an idled paper mill, pleaded guilty and has been fined $150,000 after a worker was burned following an explosion of wood dust.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour says the paper mill was idled in 2014 but its bio mass boiler was still in operation to provide heat for the mill through the winter. It was expected that the boiler would be idled after the winter when heating was no longer required.

The boiler was capable of running on either natural gas or bio mass.
In 2008 an engineering assessment of the conveyor system for the boiler concluded that the system did not present a dust explosion hazard, owing to the particle size and moisture content of the fuel being used as bio mass.

In the days before the incident, workers had been doing a cleanup of the plant in anticipation of its closure. Up to 15 wheelbarrow loads of fine, dry wood dust that had been swept up from around the plant were dumped into the conveyor system. At that time, the boiler was running on natural gas.

On February 27, 2014, it was Resolute's intention to switch the boiler over to bio mass to burn off remaining fuel stock. On that day, a maintenance worker was checking on a plug-up of material in one of the conveyors and was near the operating controls at the head of the conveyor. The worker had cleared the plug-up and was looking into the conveyor to check whether it was going to plug up again.

As the dry wood dust that had been dumped into the conveyor was travelling on the conveyor, it was ignited by an undetermined source and a dust explosion occurred. A fireball travelled through the conveyor and out the end where the worker was standing. The worker received burns to the body.

Because the boiler system had not been designed to burn only fine, dry wood dust, but rather fuel with a certain moisture content and particle size, the protective measures of Section 63 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments dealing with explosive hazards were not in place. That section regulates processes that could create an explosive mixture with air in industrial workplaces.

The company was fined $150,000 in Fort Frances court by Justice of the Peace Ron Beck on January 29, 2016.

Friday, January 29, 2016

U.S. Chemical Safety Board

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
U.S. Chemical Safety Board Releases New Safety Video, "Dangerously Close: Explosion in West, Texas,” Detailing Report Findings and Recommendations on 2013 Fatal West Fertilizer Company Explosion and Fire

January 29, 2016, Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety video into the fatal April 17, 2013, fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, which resulted in 15 fatalities, more than 260 injuries, and widespread community damage. The deadly fire and explosion occurred when about thirty tons of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN) exploded after being heated by a fire at the storage and distribution facility.

The CSB’s newly released 12-minute safety video entitled, “Dangerously Close: Explosion in West, Texas,” includes a 3D animation of the fire and explosion as well as interviews with CSB investigators and Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. The video can be viewed on the CSB’s website and YouTube.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “This tragic accident should not have happened. We hope that this video, by sharing lessons learned from our West Fertilizer Company investigation, will help raise awareness of the hazards of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate so that a similar accident can be avoided in the future.”

The CSB’s investigation found that several factors contributed to the severity of the explosion, including poor hazard awareness and fact that nearby homes and business were built in close proximity to the West Fertilizer Company over the years prior to the accident. The video explains that there was a stockpile of 40 to 60 tons of ammonium nitrate
stored at the facility in plywood bins on the night of the explosion. And although FGAN is stable under normal conditions, it can violently detonate when exposed to contaminants in a fire.

In the video, Team Lead Johnnie Banks says, “We found that as the city of West crept closer and closer to the facility, the surrounding community was not made aware of the serious explosion hazard in their midst. And the West Fertilizer Company underestimated the danger of storing fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate in ordinary combustible structures.”

The CSB investigation concludes that this lack of awareness was due to several factors, including gaps in federal regulatory coverage of ammonium nitrate storage facilities. The video details safety recommendations made to OSHA and the EPA to strengthen their regulations to protect the public from hazards posed by FGAN.

Finally, the video explains how inadequate emergency planning contributed to the tragic accident. The CSB found that the West Volunteer Fire Department was not required to perform pre-incident planning for an ammonium nitrate-related emergency, nor were the volunteer firefighters required to attend training on responding to fires involving hazardous chemicals. As a result, the CSB made several safety recommendations to various stakeholders, including the EPA, to
better inform and train emergency responders on the hazards of FGAN and other hazardous chemicals.

Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “The CSB’s goal is to ensure that no one else be killed or injured due to a lack of awareness of hazardous chemicals in their communities. If adopted, the Board’s recommendations can help prevent disasters like the one in West, Texas.”

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious 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 makes safety  recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit our website,

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at or by phone at 202.446.8095.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It Only Takes a Second . . .

It takes a minute to write a safety rule.
It takes an hour to hold a safety meeting.
It takes a week to plan a good safety program.
It takes a month to put that program into operation.
It takes a year to win a safety award.
It takes a lifetime to make a safe worker.

But it only takes a second to destroy it all—with one accident.
Take time NOW to work safely and
help your fellow employees to be safe.

One is too many.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Over 15,000 NFPA definitions for free! - National Fire Protection Association Blog

From National Fire Protection Association Blog

Over 15,000 NFPA definitions for free!

 The 2016 edition of the NFPA Glossary of Terms (GOT) has been published and is available for FREE online. Visit to download your copy.

The GOT is a list of the defined terms in all of NFPA's published codes, standards, guides and recommended practices. Over 15,000 terms are listed alphabetically and assembled into a free PDF available on the NFPA website. The document is used in a number of ways. It helps NFPA Technical Committees who are looking to define new terms or compare
existing terms. It also helps members of the public who are interested in learning about how NFPA documents define specific terms. The GOT contains the following details about each term:

Term: The word being defined.

Definition:The description of the term.

Document (Edition): Where the term and definition are found (document #) and the edition year of that document.

Document Defining Same Term: A list of all documents that also define the same term.

Document Using Same Definition: A list of all documents that also define the same term in the exact same way.

See the figure below for an example of how the GOT is organized. The
term "Barrel" is defined in 4 documents- NFPA 1, 30, 59A, and 80.  NFPA 1
and NFPA 30 both define the term in the exact same way. The first 3
definitions refer to a unit of volume while the last  definition, from
NFPA 80, refers to a rolling steel door component.To learn more about
any of the documents defining a term, visit the NFPA Document
Information pages- doc #). For example, NFPA 80 can
be found at


Monday, January 18, 2016

“It Doesn’t Apply to Me”

Using Listening to Avoid "Deadly" Resolutions

Using Listening to Avoid "Deadly" Resolutions

 Jeff Griffin

Director of Sales & Business Development at Fauske & Associates, LLC

Using Listening to Avoid "Deadly" Resolutions

While catching up on my reading from before the holidays, I ran across a short piece in EHS Today,
which gave a “Top-5 List” of the industries that are most "at risk" for combustible dust explosions. I appreciate these types of articles, and New Year’s lists in general because they are good for raising awareness about important topics and motivating change. As someone in the safety industry, I am most interested in those lists that address the risks found in industry, whether with combustible dust, flammability, orthermal hazards.

“It Doesn’t Apply to Me”

The danger with looking at anyone else's list is that it is easy to take a quick look and infer that the list “does not apply to me”. This happens a lot when dealing with process safety. I have found this to be particularly true of people who are dealing with combustible dusts. Many people assume that only certain industries have ‘real’ problem with their dust. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. In fact, the new NFPA 652 Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust was authored to prevent omissions from occurring when it comes to safe practices with dust.

The reason for this is that formerly, many industries had separate standards governing the risks associated with their dusts. For example, there are standards for agricultural and food companies (NFPA 61), for metals (NFPA 484) and woodworking facilities (NFPA 664).  The diversity of standards made it easy for non-experts to be confused about what the correct approach to hazard mitigation should be.

While there are certainly key differences across industries, the consolidated standard (NFPA 652) reinforces that there are certain best practices to be considered by all companies regardless of the industry or the material being handled. Best practices include testing the specific dust at your facility (even if  published values exist that are ‘close’ to the material at your facility), AND conducting a Dust Hazard Assessment (DHA) to ensure that risks are appropriately addressed.

Avoiding Deadly Resolutions

The example given here focuses on combustible dust, but the principle is true across industries. There are ample best practices found on industry and governmental websites, and there plenty of experts willing to chime in.

As we make our task lists to kick off the new year, let’s make the prevention of severe accidents in ALL industries the first line item on our lists.

Friday, January 15, 2016

OSHA's Top 10 List

OSHA's Top 10 most cited violations for fiscal year 2015 | December 2015 | Safety+Health Magazine

OSHA's Top 10 most cited violations

Growing data and changing inspection strategies

November 22, 2015

The Top 10 list of OSHA’s most-frequently cited violations for fiscal year 2015 may look similar
to last year’s, but change is happening behind the scenes.

One year ago, OSHA began collecting additional data from employers on amputations and hospitalizations; the resulting information has led to the agency “engaging with every employer” involved in the reported incidents, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of
Enforcement Activities, said in an exclusive interview with Safety+Health.

In September, OSHA announced it will move away from tallying each inspection equally and instead will use a weighted system based on how complicated the inspection may be. The new system is intended to place greater value on complex inspections and allow for easier strategic planning on OSHA’s part.

Additionally, the agency is continuing other efforts – including focused inspections across the country – to mitigate high-hazard threats, such as those related to ergonomics and working at height.
Employers who want to avoid being cited for one of the “Top 10” violations need to be proactive.

“We continue to encourage employers to abate hazards before an OSHA inspection and, more importantly, before a worker gets hurt,” Kapust told S+H.

Most-cited violations, fiscal year 2015
Data current as of Oct. 8, 2015

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Which Industries are at Risk for Combustible Dust Explosions?

From EHS Today

What Are the Industries at Risk for Combustible Dust Explosions?

FR clothing company Workrite Uniform Co. encourages workplace safety by highlighting the top five at-risk industries.

Combustible dust, accumulated particulate solids with the potential to ignite and create a flash fire hazard, is a present danger for a number of industries. However, workers can reduce burn injury with the use of flame-resistant (FR) clothing.

Personal protective equipment manufacturers are the “go-to” experts in the use of PPE: Their representatives serve on ANSI, NFPA and ASTM committees and much of the research and development and testing of PPE is done by manufacturers.

According to Workrite Uniform Co., employers need to ensure that FR clothing is UL-certified
to NFPA 2112, the “Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire.”

Workrite created a “Top 5” list of industries that face the highest risk of combustible dust explosions to generate awareness among employers and workers.

Food Production
- Many agricultural products – such as sugar, grains, egg whites and even powdered milk – carry a risk of combustion under the right conditions. Workers in the agricultural industry should be aware of the inherent risk of handling, transporting and storing these products.

Synthetic Manufacturing
– Materials that are common in synthetic manufacturing – including rubber, plastics and other man-made substances – can create combustible dust clouds with the potential to ignite.

– Frequently cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing wood can generate a significant amount of sawdust, which is able to easily combust in certain conditions such as being ignited by a spark from a nearby machine.

Metal Processing
– Dust from metals like aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium and zinc is combustible, and many of the activities in a metal processing environment can produce heat and sparks.

Recycling Facilities
– Recycling facilities handle a wide variety of materials, and the sorting, processing, handling and transporting of these materials increases the risk of explosions caused by combustible dust.

To help combat the heightened risk of combustible dust explosions, it is important for workplaces to perform risk assessments, keep work areas clean, conduct regular inspections and ensure that employees wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

For detailed information, review NFPA 654, which is the industry standard that provides the safety measures to prevent and mitigate fires and dust explosions in facilities that handle combustible particulate solids.

For more information on combustible dust and other safety hazards, industry standards and the role of FR clothing in workplace safety,visit

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cal Ripken, Jr. gives tips to help prevent workplace fires and ensure the safety of your workers

ISHN 2015 Article Video Player

On an average day in America, there are over 200 workplace fires causing hundreds of fatalities and thousands more injuries. In this video Cal Ripken, Jr. gives you some tips to help you prevent workplace fires and ensure the safety of your workers. Brought to you by Northern Safety, which offers a full line of safety and industrial products.

ISHN 2015 Article Video Player

Portable fire extinguisher basics

From Northern Safety News & Information - Northern Safety Co., Inc.

Portable fire extinguisher basics
Fires can be dangerous and costly, and a portable fire extinguisher can be an effective tool to help control or put out early-stage fires.

Fire extinguishers are classified by the type of fire they will extinguish and include:

Class A: Water, used for fires involving ordinary combustibles such as paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics

Class B: CO2, used for fires involving flammable liquids such as oils, gas, some paints, lacquers, grease, and solvents

Class C: Dry chemical, used for fires involving electrical
equipment such as wiring, fuse boxes, energized electrical machinery,
computers, or other electrical items

Class ABC: Multi-purpose, can be used for most fires involving ordinary combustibles, flammable liquids, or electrical equipment

Class D: Used for fires involving powders, flakes, or shavings of metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium

Class K:Used for fires involving cooking fluids such as oils and fats

Most handheld fire extinguishers use the P.A.S.S. technique to operate:

• Pull the pin. This will prepare the extinguisher for use and break the tamper seal.
• Aim the extinguisher nozzle low, at the base of the fire
• Squeeze the handle to release extinguishing materials
• Sweep the nozzle back and forth at the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Then watch. Repeat the process if the fire begins to flame back up

Take time to develop an emergency action plan for fire safety. With the proper planning, fire safety equipment, and training, companies can help protect workers and property.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

New free Post-Blast Response training video from the Firefighters Support Foundation - Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd

From Hemming Group Ltd

New free Post-Blast Response training video from the Firefighters Support Foundation

Published:  25 November, 2015

The Firefighters Support Foundation’s (FSF) newest training program, Post-Blast Response is now available free of charge.

Presented by August Vernon, an emergency management subject matter expert, the 32-minute video accompanies a 47-slide PowerPoint presentation. The video explains why post-blast response is an important subject for firefighters, EMTs, search and rescue, and other emergency management  personnel.  It describes the actions and tactics to be employed immediately after the blast is called in, while arriving on scene, during the first critical minutes, and throughout what will certainly be a  lengthy investigation.

‘This program also describes ways in which various the public safety agencies need to work together and describes critical elements of the ICS system that will play a key role,’ said FSF President David

The PowerPoint resource can be used by any agency or member either as is or as a basis from which to construct training modules or presentations. Download your copy from

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Report Finds 85 Fatalities in The Chemicals Industry Last Year

Report Finds 85 Fatalities in The Chemicals Industry Last Year

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 3:38pm
Andy Szal, Digital Reporter

A British chemical engineering group said this week that serious accidents in the U.S. chemical and processing industries resulted in 85 fatalities and more than 600 serious injuries in 2014.

The Institution of Chemical Engineers, a professional membership organization, surveyed media coverage of explosions, fires and other incidents in the U.S. last year.

The analysis found 228 separate incidents in chemical manufacturing and a number of related industries, including mining, refining, food processing, biotechnology, wastewater treatment, and oil and gas exploration and production.

"Many of these incidents commanded just a few column inches, but there are 75 reports that detail fatalities," said Andy Furlong, the group's policy director. "Each one is a grim human tragedy that could have been avoided, had the appropriate safety arrangements been in place."

The group also announced plans to bring its safety training course to the U.S. for the first time;  courses will be held in Texas, California and Pennsylvania starting next week.

Preliminary numbers released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in September showed 27 fatalities in chemical manufacturing last year but 142 in oil and gas extraction alone.

Monday, November 16, 2015

NFPA 652 - new combustible dust standard - National Fire Protection Association Blog

National Fire Protection Association Blog

NFPA 652 - new combustible dust standard

Susan Bershad is a Senior Chemical Engineer in the Industrial and
Chemical Engineering division at NFPA® and is also the staff liaison for
the Combustible Dust project.
Susan has been working diligently on NFPA 652 which has the following
scope: “This standard shall provide the basic principles of and
requirements for identifying and managing the fire and explosion hazards
of combustible dusts and particulate solids.”

I had a few minutes to talk to Susan about the challenges and importance of the document and about a training event she is hosting on December 3 about NFPA 652.

Q: What was your biggest technical challenge with updating the NFPA 652?
A: The biggest challenge for the committee with NFPA
652 was identifying those requirements that are fundamental to all
facilities and processes where combustible dust hazards are possible.

Q: How is NFPA 652 different from NFPA 654?
A: NFPA 652 provides the fundamental requirements
for all industries with combustible dust hazards.  While NFPA 654 is
more general than the other commodity-specific standards, its focus is
directed towards the chemical processing industry.  NFPA 652 now
provides a baseline for all other industries, while, as a
commodity-specific standard, NFPA 654 contains additional requirements
that go beyond those in NFPA 652.

Q: Why is training needed for combustible dust hazards?
A: This training is needed to develop an
understanding of the hazards of combustible dust.  A leading cause of
incidents involving combustible dust is a lack of awareness of the
hazards.  The new 652 standard contains the fundamental requirements for
identifying and managing the hazards of combustible dust.  It works
with the existing commodity and industry specific standards to provide a
comprehensive framework for managing hazards associated with
combustible dust.

Q: Who should attend this training?
A: Anyone who owns or operates a facility where
combustible dust is or could be present should attend this training.
 This includes facilities managers, EHS managers and operations
personnel at these facilities.  In addition, anyone who insurers a
facility where combustible dust is or could be present should attend as
well as authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ's) responsible for these
facilities.  Designers and consulting engineers, as well as
installer/maintainers and manufacturers of explosion protection and
suppression equipment should also attend.

Q: What are the top 3 takeaways registered attendees will take from this training?

  1. What is a combustible dust and how do I know that I have a combustible dust hazard
  2. What is 652 and how does it interact with the other commodity and industry-specific combustible dust standards.  
  3. What is a Dust Hazards Analysis and when and how do I complete for my facility.
Susan will be hosting a live, online training event on December 3,
2015 from 11 am to 1 pm EDT on the subject of “Combustible Dust Hazards –
NFPA 652” Click here for more information or to register.

Combustible Dust Hazard – NFPA 652 Live Online Training

Breaking News – OSHA Max Penalties Set to Nearly Double

The OSHA Defense Report

OSHA Law Updates from the OSHA Practice Group at Conn Maciel Carey


Breaking News – OSHA Max Penalties Set to Nearly Double

By Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group

For as long as I have been practicing OSHA law (more than 15 years now), four things have remained constant:

  1. The maximum per violation penalty that OSHA has been permitted by
    the OSH Act to assign to Serious violations has been $7,000, and for
    Repeat or Willful violations it has remained $70,000;
  2. The Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA makes an annual pilgrimage
    to the Hill where he or she pounds on the table and demands that
    Congress enact OSHA reform legislation to increase the maximum penalties
    OSHA can assign (with common refrains like: “employers can be fined
    more for mistreating cattle on federal lands than for allowing an
    employee fatality!”);
  3. There has been one iteration or another of such reform legislation
    (usually dubbed the “Protecting America’s Workers Act”) floating around
    Congress and stalling before it even gets out of Committee; and
  4. OSHA proposes penalties on average at a level 50% below the maximum penalty level currently authorized.
Yet, here we are in 2015 with a Republican-controlled House and
Senate, and through the backdoor comes a Congressionally-mandated
increase to maximum OSHA civil penalties of nearly 80%. A bizarre
parting gift by now former Speaker of the House John Boehner, no doubt
part of his effort toBudget Act
“clear the barn” for his successor. Color me shocked.

Here are the details. The much publicized two-year bipartisan budget agreement
allowed the federal government to remain open and not default on the
U.S. debt, but it also contained lesser known (or completely unknown)
provisions, including one that allows for a nearly 80% increase in OSHA
penalties in the next year, as well as indefinite periodic increases to
match the rise of the cost of living in the future.

Specifically, the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama last week (November 2nd). Section 701 of the Budget Act, entitled “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015,”
gives OSHA the green light to increase penalty amounts to catch up with
cost of living adjustments since the last time OSHA’s civil penalties
were raised (1990).

The Civil Penalties Adjustment section of the 2015 budget bill was
hammered out between Speaker Boehner and the White House with apparently
no input from House or Senate members. It provides for a one-time
“Catch-up Adjustment” that must be implemented by no later than August
1, 2016. The catch-up adjustment is tied to the percentage rise in the
Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the time OSHA last increased its civil
penalties in 1990 through November 17, 2015. The actual percentage
increase will not be known until next week, but based on recent CPI
trends,Penalty Inflation Adjustment Act
the increase is expected to be approximately 80%.

Assuming a penalty inflation adjustment of approximately 80%, OSHA
will be imminently increasing the maximum civil penalty for alleged
Serious violations from $7,000 per violation to approximately $12,000,
and for alleged willful or repeat violations from $70,000 per violation
to approximately $120,000. After the initial catch-up increase, OSHA is
also authorized by the law to continue to
adjust penalties upward as the CPI continues to rise year after year.
The law does, however, cap the penalty increase at 150%.

OSHA Penalty Table

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, has
long been a proponent of increasing OSHA penalties, expressing (often
during his annual pilgrimage to the Hill):

“Unscrupulous employers often consider it more cost
effective to pay the minimal OSHA penalty and continue to operate an
unsafe workplace than to correct the underlying health and safety
From a logistics standpoint, the bill directs OSHA to promulgate the
penalty increases by way of an interim final rule, which allows the
changes to become effective immediately upon publication in the Federal
Register, with comments by stakeholders to be solicited after the fact.
The budget bill also would allow OSHA to increase the penalty by some
amount(s) less than the maximum permitted increase, but to do so, OSHA
would have to follow a more traditional rulemaking approach. It is
inconceivable that OSHA will not jump at the maximum allowable increase,
especially given the greater rulemaking burden they would face to raise
it by less than the maximum.

As a long-time OSHA defense counsel, I am truly amazed that this
legislation was passed. OSHA reform has been one of those hot button
issues about which the two sides of the aisle could never find common
ground. Indeed, we have watched for years as the proposed Protecting
America’s Workers Act legislation has floundered in Congress.
Accordingly, I never expected to see a Republican-controlled Congress
raise OSHA’s maximum civil penalties at all, let alone nearly doubling

Now it will be interesting to see what OSHA does with this new
penalty authority. OSHA under the Obama Administration has been very
enforcement-centric. It has all but eliminated compliance assistance in
favor of enforcement programs. We have even watched OSHA implement
creative policy changes to increase minimum penalties
and reduce or eliminate permissible penalty reductions. Nevertheless,
even with these efforts to drive up penalties, OSHA’s average penalty
per Serious violation has remained than $3,000 (i.e., less than half of
the maximum penalty OSHA could issue under the law).

Penalty Per Serious Graph

So how and to whom will OSHA boost penalties with these new maximum
penalty levels? My prediction is that we will most likely see penalties
increase significantly for:

  • Larger employers;
  • Employers whom OSHA views as bad actors (e.g., Severe Violator
    Enforcement Program cases, and citation packages including multiple
    willful and repeat violations);
  • Violations in certain high emphasis categories (e.g., amputations,
    temporary workers, and other topics covered by OSHA’s national and local
    emphasis programs).
OSHA has claimed for years that it does not have “sharp enough teeth”
to influence employers’ conduct.  This law has certainly sharpened
their teeth; another reason employers need to prepare in advance for an
OSHA inspection. 

Here is a link to an OSHA Inspection Checklist we prepared to help employers prepare for and manage an OSHA inspection.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Was Extra Fine Wood Dust Factor in Mill Fires and Explosions? | Woodworking Network

From Woodworking Network

Was Extra Fine Wood Dust Factor in Mill Fires and Explosions?

Aerial photograph of the east side of the Babine sawmill. The large yellow arrow indicates the easterly direction of the explosion’s
expansion from the point of origin. Source: WorkSafeBC incident report, January 2012.

Aerial photograph of the east side of the Babine sawmill. The large yellow arrow indicates the easterly direction of the explosion’s  expansion from the point of origin. Source: WorkSafeBC incident  report, January 2012.

trend to finer wood dust - resulting from dryer beetle killed wood and finer-kerf saw blades - may have contributed to a series of fires and plant explosions in British Columbia mills and wood products factories.

A 2012 internal memo from WorkSafeBC, released through a Freedom of Information request, also predicted industry resistance to wood dust control rules  "if an enforcement strategy is pursued at this time."

WorkSafeBC circulated an internal document stating the agency was
concerned that an enforcement strategy to address wood dust in sawmills
would lead to industry pushback, according to the United Steelworkers.

"Less than two months before a deadly explosion at the Lakelands sawmill in Prince George, BC,
killed two workers," says a statement issued October 1 by the United Steelworkers. The Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada (IWA Canada) union merged with the United Steel Workers in 2004.

Following a sawmill explosion at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, BC, that killed two workers, WorkSafeBC produced an "issue management" document dated Feb. 27, 2012, titled "Wood Dust in Wood Product Manufacturing Facilities – Potent Fire and Explosion Hazards."[See PDF]

Noting the combustibility of wood dust and a number of dust related fires and explosions in preceding years, the document says, "Industry sensitivity to the issue given the recent event and limited clarity around what constitutes an explosion could lead to push back if an enforcement strategy is pursued at this time."

"This internal document clearly demonstrates that WorkSafeBC was more concerned about pushback from industry CEOs than the health and safety of workers," said Stephen Hunt, United Steel Workers Director for western Canada, in a statement. "If this does not call for a public inquiry, I don't know what does."

The document was obtained by the United Steelworkers through a Freedom of Information request from WorkSafeBC. The initial response to the FOI request resulted in a document that WorkSafeBC termed an "earlier version" that did not include the statement regarding industry sensitivity and pushback, according to the steelworkers union.  A subsequent FOI request resulted in the document that includes the passage. The United Steel Workers is calling for a public inquiry.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Controlling Combustible Dust in Your Plant

FromPowder/Bulk Solids

Four Steps to Control Combustible Dust in Your Plant

Hi-Vac manifold piping system to help clean up chips and cuttings from machine centers
Hi-Vac manifold piping system to help clean up chips and cuttings from machine centers

According to the Spring 2015 Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs report, combustible dust explosions have been an OSHA focus for years. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board reported in late 2006 that 199 workers had died in 2005 alone as a result of combustible dust events. OSHA has increasingly focused on how to prevent explosions caused by combustible dust. Together with the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA published a bulletin in November 2014 titled, “Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions.”

According to the bulletin, there are three components of a dust explosion, and those are dust, an ignition source (usually heat), and oxygen in the air that helps the fire spread rapidly. Together with
hazard assessment, OSHA suggests in the bulletin that tactics like improving ventilation design would help prevent combustible dust explosions and fires.
The fact is that fire and explosions caused by combustible dust can be prevented in many cases. Four steps can help a plan become more OSHA-compliant and safer for the workers there.

Step One: Install a Plant-Wide Manifold Piping System

Together with a high-quality stationary industrial vacuum system, a pneumatic conveying system or a central vacuum cleaning system can effectively reduce the amount of combustible dust in a plant. Shorter hoses at each workstation can be used so that employees do not have to touch potentially hazardous material and so that they can clean their areas without the fatigue that larger systems can cause.

Step Two: Use a System That Allows Controls to Be Positioned outside the Classified Area

The installation of a manifold piping system, together with the use of a powerful industrial vacuum system, can enable installation of the control panel to occur outside of the classified area. This means the plant can continue to use NEMA 4 classification control panel versus the far more expensive NEMA 7/9 controls. If one of the impediments to plant safety is perceived cost, it is important to note that this simple change can potentially save thousands of dollars.

Step Three: Add a Back Draft Isolation Valve or Pressurized Chemical Isolation outside the Plant

The installation of a back draft isolation valve or a pressurized chemical isolation outside the plan will help to ensure that any ignition source outside of the vacuum system will not enter the plant.

Step Four: Pick the Best Possible Industrial Vacuum System

Perhaps the most important step to help prevent combustible dust fires and explosions is to invest in the best possible industrial vacuum system. These systems need to be durable, reliable, and provide several different safety features that are central to meeting combustible dust control objectives. Among the safety features to look for are:

    • No flame escape

    • No air inrush thanks to quick reclosing

    • Air-tight enclosure

    • Operable in all mounting positions


Look for a vacuum system that is virtually maintenance-free. A stainless steel material inlet  assembly, grounding the filter bags or cartridges, utilizing a grounded, smooth bore rubber hose and aluminum or stainless nozzles, all can help to eliminate sparking potential. The investment in such a system compared to the costs in damage, not to mention in human lives, is easy to justify.

Controlling combustible dust is a constant concern for plants of all kinds. There is a perpetual risk of danger, but with a strong plant design, clear safety procedures, and an investment in a high-quality
industrial vacuum system, tragedies can easily be avoided.

    Shawn Doolittle is sales manager industrial products, Hi-Vac Corp., Marietta, OH. For more information, call 800-752-2400 or visit

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

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Introducing the NFPA 652 Combustible Dust Standard

From Powder/Bulk Solids

NFPA Introduces NFPA 652 Combustible Dust Standard

July 27, 2015

Every year, destructive and deadly dust-related fires and explosions affect a wide range of industries around the world. In the United States alone, 50 combustible dust accidents occurred between 2008
and 2012. To manage the dust-related fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards in industries that use dust collection and handling equipment, or have processes that may generate combustible dust, the  National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) introduces the first-time NFPA 652: Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust.

This important new Standard serves a wide variety of industries including chemical, wood  processing, metals, and agricultural.

In addition to providing new general requirements for managing combustible dust fire and explosion hazards, NFPA 652 directs users to NFPA's appropriate industry- or commodity-specific standards, such as NFPA 61: Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities; NFPA 484: Combustible Metals; NFPA 654: Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids; and NFPA 664: Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities.

NFPA 652 puts all stakeholders on the same page with regard to dusts and their attendant hazards. Chapters include:

•    Definitions

•    General Requirements

•    Hazard Identification

•    Performance-Based Design Option

•    Process Hazards Analysis

•    Hazard Management: Mitigation and Prevention

Developed by experts in fire and explosion safety around combustible dust, first-time NFPA 652 gives installers, contractors, engineers, facility managers, code enforcers, inspectors, and  environmental health and safety (EHS) personnel a single go-to source for the information necessary to safely handle combustible dust in any industry, anywhere around the globe. (Softbound,  approximately 69 pages, 2016)

Order NFPA 652: Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust

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Monday, July 6, 2015

2015 Guide to Chemical Industry

From Powder/Bulk Solids

ACC Publishes 2015 Guide to Chemical Industry

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has issued its 2015
edition of the Guide to the Business of Chemistry, a detailed economic
profile of the chemistry industry and its contributions to the U.S. and
world economies.

American chemistry is the global leader in production, providing over
fifteen percent of the world’s chemicals and representing 14 percent of
all U.S. exports. It is also one of America’s largest manufacturing
industries, an $801 billion enterprise providing 804,000 high-paying
jobs. For every one chemistry industry job, 6.3 others are generated in
other sectors of the economy, including construction, transportation,
and agriculture, totaling nearly six million chemistry-dependent jobs.

“The business of chemistry is the building block for everything around
us,” said the publication’s lead author, ACC chief economist Kevin
Swift. “Supporting nearly 25 percent of the U.S. GDP, the business of
American chemistry is vital to continued economic expansion, job
creation, and the return of a strong domestic manufacturing sector.”

“At the midway point in 2015, the business of chemistry is poised for
growth,” Swift continued. “Ongoing recovery of end-use markets,
sustained competitiveness, and the return of global economic growth will
lift demand for American chemistry for several years and in the
long-term the industry will grow faster than the overall economy.”

Prepared annually by ACC’s Economics and Statistics Department, The
Guide to the Business of Chemistry divides the $801 billion business
into more than thirty categories of production, ranging from inorganic
chemicals to plastic resins; from adhesives and sealants to oilfield
chemicals; and from fertilizers to pharmaceuticals and consumer
products. Within each segment the report highlights distinct
characteristics, including growth dynamics, markets, new developments,
and other issues affecting each sector.

Individual sections of the guide cover a variety of topics in detail,
including financial performance, U.S. and global trade, innovation,
capital investment, employment, environmental, health and safety
statistics, energy, and distribution. Charts and graphs help illustrate
data and provide comparisons for the past 10 years.

The Guide to the Business of Chemistry is available to ACC members for $285 and non-members for $385.

Order or download an electronic version

Order a bound, printed version

Alternatively, orders can be placed by calling 301-617-7824.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

OSHA Clarifies Guidance on Combustible Dust

From The National Law Review

OSHA Clarifies Enforcement Guidance on Combustible Dust

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, responding to a request of the National Forest and Paper Association, has updated its compliance guidance on how inspectors are to evaluate accumulated levels of low bulk-density combustible dusts for enforcement purposes. The guidance was released by OSHA on May 22. The Association asked OSHA to explain to the agency’s inspectors that they should consider the unique characteristics of a dust ‒ such as its bulk density ‒ instead of basing assessments on whether dust accumulation simply surpasses 1/32 of an inch (about the diameter of a paper clip), an OSHA spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA.

OSHA’s compliance guidance for its seven-year-old National Emphasis Program (NEP) for combustible dust references 1/32-inch dust accumulation levels. However, OSHA made clear in the latest guidance that this accumulation thickness is based on certain assumptions. These include the uniformity of the dust layer covering the surfaces and a material bulk density of 75 pounds per cubic foot (lb/ft3). The 2013 update of National Fire Protection Association consensus standard 654 includes a mathematical calculation for determining when the dust accumulation level may exceed the layer depth criteria of 1/32-inch for materials with bulk density less than 75 lb/ft3, the guidance noted.

Thus, inspectors should consider the bulk density of the dust prior to determining if there has been a violation of the housekeeping standard (29 CFR § 1910.22) or the materials handling and storage standard (29 CFR § 1910.176). For tissue paper dust, fabric fibers, and other low-density dusts (i.e., less than 75 lb/ft3), the guidance advises inspectors to collect samples for laboratory analysis of bulk density, provided that the accumulation level is greater than ¼-inch extending over 5 percent of the floor area of a room or building, or 1000 ft2, whichever is less. Sample collection steps are provided,
and inspectors are instructed to send samples to OSHA's Salt Lake Technical Center in Utah.

However, the guidance also makes clear that samples for bulk-density determinations are not  necessary for dust accumulations exceeding one inch in depth and extending over the same floor area. In those cases, information on the approximate bulk densities of the combustible dust may be obtained from the employer, the Internet, or other sources. Those numbers then may be used to determine the approximate values of the dust accumulations for citation purposes, according to the guidance.

OSHA believes the outcome of most inspections will remain unchanged by the new guidance.

According to the OSHA spokesperson, bulk-density determinations may not be an issue in many cases because inspectors normally find combustible dust accumulations levels far exceeding  hazardous levels. Only cases involving light dusts could be affected, because of the importance of bulk density in determining if hazardous accumulations of dust are present. OSHA began a controversial rulemaking for combustible dust in 2009 and held meetings in 2010. More recently, the agency proposed conducting a Small Business  Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review in February 2016.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Avoid Undersizing Dust Collection Systems

From our friends at

How to Avoid Undersizing a Baghouse Dust Collection System

How to Avoid Undersizing a Baghouse Dust Collection System

Dust collector OEMs constantly try to come in with bids lower than competitors. In an attempt to do so, some baghouse manufacturers offer undersized systems. This article discusses what customers can do to avoid accepting a bid for an inadequately-sized baghouse dust collection system.

By Dominick DalSanto
Dust Collection Expert & Sales Director

”I’m sorry, but the other supplier came in lower than you. We went with their proposal over yours.”

I think there are few things I hate hearing more than those words in my position in baghouse sales. I can respect a client who has found a better deal on a comparable system. But I am upset when I hear that my competition came in with a bid lower than mine by recommending a grossly undersized system. As a sales professional, this particularly exasperates me as I feel these OEMs abuse the level of trust placed in them by the customer by offering something they know will not work properly — and because I know how big a problem it is in our industry.

Many sales reps apparently believe in the viability of their plans, and, thus, offer them in good faith, but others have — and will — propose systems that are smaller than customers require knowing that it will not perform adequately. The end result is that vital baghouse systems do not operate adequately, and customers, workers, and the community end up paying the price in the form of higher operating costs, safety hazards, and more pollutants.

The situation can present a major problem for customers as most of them rely on the experience and expertise of baghouse manufacturers or environmental technology experts to recommend a properly sized system. Lacking knowledge on dust collection engineering and industry best practice, customers must rely on others without being able to independently verify their figures.

The question this arises, how can customers prevent this from happening?

Baghouse Case Study at Silver Mine Lab

View of entire testing area equipped with a dust collection system
View of entire testing area including the various hoods and backdraft table connected to a dust collection system.

A few years ago, a silver mining operation contacted us and requested a technical inspection of one of the mine’s baghouse dust collection systems. The task was to examine a small 5,000 cfm system used for venting an onsite testing lab.

In the lab, plant personnel conducted daily tests of ore samples taken from various locations in the mine to ascertain which areas had the highest concentrations of silver ore. The process for conducting these tests involved the use of several extremely harmful substances, chiefly lead and cyanide. The main concern was that during some recent evaluations for safety purposes, lead dust had been found on windowsills and in nearby rooms. Additionally, the amount of lead dust found on the clothing of workers in these areas — specifically lab technicians — was found to be several times higher than allowable under MSA standards, leading to one worker requesting a transfer to a different department.

In addition, the system itself appeared to function at a very low level of efficiency and “did not seem to run properly,” according to staff.

Problem — An Undersized Baghouse System

Large backdraft workstation vented to dust collector by ductwork
Backdraft workstation – Draft (i.e. suction) on the table was so weak it could hardly contain any dust generated on the table.

After conducting an inspection and reviewing several elements of the system, I immediately realized it was grossly undersized. It was “designed” to ventilate the testing lab using a series of venting hoods and vented workstations. There were five pickup points in the system that were connected directly to the baghouse, which was located just outside the exterior wall. The first drop point was a large backdraft workstation (Picture  #2), 72 in. x 36 in., for mixing the lead and other compounds together with the ore samples. There were three small furnaces — used to heat samples — with venting hoods of 32 in. x 39 in. above them. And there was one tall, ducted workstation, 32 in. x 39 in., used as a back-up for the other mixing station. Venting for everything went straight up through the ceiling to the main trunk (Picture #3), which then ran directly out through the exterior wall and into the baghouse. The main trunk was 12 in. in diameter, tapering to 10 in. then 8 in. then 6 in. The main workstation was connected using a 10 in. duct, and all others used a 5-in. duct (Picture #4) to connect the hoods to the main trunk.

Dust collection system ductwork above the ceiling of the testing room
The ductwork above the ceiling of the testing room. The size of the individual branches and the way they connect to each other was not
designed according to industry best practice.

According to the supplier-provided specifications, the baghouse had (49) 5.5 in. x 10 in. bags, and the system fan was rated for 5,043 cfm at approximately 10 in. w.g. of pressure. In this arrangement, the system should have resulted in an air-to-cloth ratio of approximately 7.15:1.

After manually taking airflow readings, I found that the system cfm actually was 3,969. Additionally, when we physically removed a sample bag and measured it, we found it to be 5 in. in diameter, not 5.5 in. as the spec sheet listed. After crunching the numbers, we determined that the air velocity was, at times, below 79 ft./m. This was less than one-50th of the minimum recommend air velocity for this application.

Venting hood connected to a dust collection system
One of the hoods over a test furnace. Notice the lack of curtains and small diameter duct going up out of the hood.

Poor ductwork design, a grossly undersized baghouse, and an equally underpowered fan combined to make this system almost worthless to the facility. (they neglected to size the fan based on the relative elevation and in doing reduced the output of the already undersized fan by another 30%) The  effective pull from the system was so weak that one could place a hand directly under the intake on  any of the stations and feel almost no noticeable suction — even when the system was running at full power. It was so weak it could hardly lift a piece of paper out of my hand! Obviously, this led to the  excessive contamination of the workers and surrounding area.

Why So Small?

The system was designed by in-house personnel, who had no air-handling engineering experience, and a testing lab consulting company. The consultant procured the system from a sales rep organization, which, in turn, procured it from another independent sales rep that worked with the manufacturer. The final cost of the system was more than $75,000 for the baghouse, fan, ductwork, and hoods — much of that being mark-up for all the parties involved. The system was undersized from the start, so while cheaper for the customer, it ended up virtually useless for that customer.

Using even rough calculations, with a minimum conveying velocity of 250 ft./m in the hoods — and that really should have been even higher — the system would have required at least 12,000 cfm to function at an adequate level. Heavy dusts such as lead require high conveying velocities between 4,000 ft/min or more to prevent product drop out.

This would mean a much larger system fan, (adjusted to the 4,400-foot geographic elevation of the plant), a baghouse with either triple the amount of bag filters or the use of pleated filter elements to increase filter area, and a completely redesigned ductwork system with a larger trunk and branches, along with better hood design and a damper system to further increase collection efficiency.

Solution — How to Avoid Being Sold an Undersized System

Some may feel that this case study serves only as a horror story to scare potential buyers on the  pitfalls of trusting unscrupulous salespeople. I agree that part of the reason for telling this story is to advise you that implicitly trusting any vendor trying to sell you something as large and expensive as a  dust collection system is not wise. The main moral of the story, however, is to help you make sure  you get the best dust collection system for your needs. In the previously outlined case study, the  following steps may have helped prevent this disaster:

1) The first step is to do your homework before you call for quotes. While becoming an expert on  every piece of industrial equipment before contacting vendors isn’t feasible, gaining as much  knowledge as possible goes a long way to ensuring you get what you need. Knowledge provides you with leverage during the sales process. Since, in this case, company personnel went in completely  ignorant of how a dust collection system operates, they were at the mercy of whatever their vendor  was going to tell them. This meant they had no idea of air-to-cloth ratios, air conveying velocities,  ductwork design, etc.Additionally, where possible, deal directly with a baghouse dust collector  manufacture (such as as opposed to sales rep organizations, that often have little to  no practice experience engineering dust collection solutions.

2) Second, verify vendor calculations. While at times you may be able to determine exactly what size  a system you need on your own, you may require assistance. This is especially true with regard to  new installations and new processes. There is nothing wrong with asking vendors to assist you, but  make sure to review their numbers afterward.

This may require a bit of research or even hiring an outside consultant to verify the engineering. In  the case study, had plant personnel taken the time to review system specifications proposed by the  vendor, people would have found that the figures were far off from accepted industry standards. (See  the American Council of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Manual for standards on  minimum air-conveying speeds and system design standards.) This would have exposed that the  system was grossly undersized and allowed staff either to correct the problem or to seek a different  vendor.

3) Third, seek alternative proposals. Had the company solicited alternative bids, personnel likely  would have noticed the obvious discrepancies between them. Additional proposals likely would have  shown a large difference in price, owing to the vendor’s undersizing of the system. Other vendors  (likely) would have submitted more realistic proposals. Instead of believing that any one supplier  somehow may have managed to undercut the competition by such a large margin — while offering an  adequate product — the wise course would be to investigate why one bid would come in so much  lower than the others and correct any mistakes that may have been made.


Yes, this story is meant to raise concerns over the buying process, but that is a good thing for  potential buyers. If they keep in mind the points outlined here, they can avoid the pitfalls of an  installing an undersized dust collection system and avoid the complications that can come with it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Combustible Dust Vacuums Save Lives and Property -- Occupational Health & Safety

From Occupational Health & Safety

This breakaway central vacuum can move 10,000 pounds of powder in an hour from 30 feet away if needed. (Air Cleaning Technology photo)

 Combustible Dust Vacuums Save Lives and Property

Implementing a housekeeping routine to mitigate combustible dust minimizes explosion risk.

By David Kennedy / May 01, 2015
According to a 2012 report by the NFPA, there were an estimated 8,600 structural fires reported to U.S. fire departments each year at industrial or manufacturing properties between 2006 and 2010.

Dust, fiber, or lint (including sawdust) accounted for 12 percent of the items first ignited, just behind flammable or combustible liquids and gases, which topped the list at 13 percent. When fugitive dust is unchecked, these fires can quickly escalate into catastrophic secondary dust explosions, causing devastating injury, death, and property damage.

Shocking cases like the Imperial Sugar dust explosion that injured 42 and killed 14 and the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products explosion in China last August that killed 146 people stand out most in the public eye, but there have been 57 combustible dust incidents in the United States from 2009 to 2013 in which 26 people died and 129 were injured—and many of those who do survive suffer catastrophic injuries.

While some explosions are caused by a blatant disregard for human health and safety, like the three Hoeganaes explosions in a year1 that killed five workers and injured three, the NFPA asserts that many dust explosions occur due to a lack of knowledge, concluding from investigative findings that "owners/operators appear to be unaware of the hazards posed by combustible particulate solids that have the potential to form combustible dusts," as reported in the March April 2015 NFPA Journal.2


There is a noted lack of solid regulation, and thus awareness, regarding the handling of fugitive dust for general industry, including food products, rubbers, metal, wood, pharmaceuticals, plastics, paint,
coatings, and synthetic organic chemicals, which is what the soon-to-be-released NFPA 652, Fundamentals on Combustible Dust, hopes to address.

In addition, the NFPA is also in the process of reviewing and modifying standards NFPA 61, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities, NFPA 484, Standard for Combustible Metals, and NFPA 654, Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids.

The current NFPA standards included in OSHA's Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) are NFPA 654, 61,484,664, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities and 655, Standard for Prevention of Sulfur Fires and Explosions.

Except for NFPA 61 and 664, which address combustible metals and food/agriculture products respectively, fugitive dust control and housekeeping standards are generally the same for  manufacturing, processing, and handling of combustible particulate solids, wood processing and woodworking facilities, and also for sulfur.

Housekeeping standards for combustible dust call for the use of industrial vacuum cleaners designed for Class II Division 2 environments to regularly remove and minimize dust accumulation on walls, floors, and horizontal surfaces such as equipment ledges, above suspended ceilings, and other  concealed surfaces. When disturbed, these accumulations of dust become airborne, forming a dust cloud with devastating potential.

Controlling the Explosion Pentagon
The explosion pentagon includes the three elements of the fire triangle, fuel (combustible dust), ignition source (heat), and an oxidizer (air), but it needs two additional elements: dispersion of dust particles (insufficient quantity and concentration) and the confinement of the dust cloud (vessel, area, or building).

If one of the elements is missing, a fire or explosion cannot occur. While it is difficult to remove air and fuel from the triangle, the first rule of fire prevention, and therefore explosion prevention, is to
eliminate the ignition source. While most machinery manufacturers design equipment with safety in mind, mechanical equipment is capable of malfunctioning, heating up, and causing ignitions.

In some plants, every precaution is taken to eliminate ignition sources to prevent fires and dust collection equipment is implemented to safely contain most of the dust in the plant; however, fugitive dust is often overlooked, and the regular removal of accumulations that can form into dust clouds must occur to prevent dust explosions.

Controlling Fugitive Dust

According to most NFPA standards regarding combustible dust, vacuuming is the preferred method for removing the dust. Whether they are central vacs or portable vacuums, they also need to meet NFPA 77 requirements for grounding and bonding. These vacuums also meet the definition of an
"intrinsically-safe system."

Industrial vacuum cleaners to control fugitive combustible dust should be suitable for use in Class II Division 2 areas. Vacuum cleaners in particular can be vulnerable to ignition, and that is why choosing a manufacturer that designs and builds its vacuum cleaners from the ground up to be explosion proof, ensuring there is no chance for the product to come into contact with anything ignitable, is essential. Any time there is powder flowing in one direction through a plastic vacuum-cleaning hose, it can create a significant static electric charge. In addition, there is the possibility that there may be static electricity buildup on individual dust particles. If a charged, ungrounded hose used to vacuum combustible dust powder were to contact an object that was grounded, the static electricity could then arc and trigger a violent explosion. This is why OSHA has issued numerous
citations for using standard vacuum cleaners where Class II Division 2 equipment is required.

Employing an industrial vacuum cleaner redundantly grounded in five different ways eliminates the possibility of any kind of explosion from the vacuum. The first of the five ways that vacuums should be grounded begins with the air line that supplies the compressed air to the units.

Because most plants have compressed air lines made from iron that conducts electricity, air-operated vacuums use static conductive high-pressure compressed air lines. In addition to the static conductive
air lines, static conductive hoses, filters, and casters further reduce risk. A grounding lug and strap that travels from the vacuum head down to the storage container eliminates the potential for arcing.

When implementing a central vacuum system, NFPA standards call for vacuum cleaners to be fixed pipe suction systems with a remotely located exhauster and dust collector. When flammable gases are present, vacuum cleaners need to be listed for Class I and Class II hazardous locations.

It is best to work with a central vacuum cleaner manufacturer that has extensive experience with combustible dusts and will perform tests on your materials to ensure the system will work as specified.

Portable Combustible Dust Vacuums

For many facilities, central vacuum systems are cost prohibitive; however, there are several portable vacuum cleaners designed for use in Class II Division 2 areas that are excellent solutions to removing
fugitive dust. NFPA 654 allows bulk storage containers to remain inside as long as they are less than 8cubic feet.

The most economical solution for cleaning combustible fugitive dust is with air-operated vacuums. Beyond the fact that air-operated vacuums use no electricity and have no moving parts, air-operated industrial vacuums for combustible dust are safer in terms of grounding. They also work more efficiently in the industrial environment. One thing to look for when choosing a vacuum for  combustible dust is ease of use and sufficient sucking power.

If filters bind, suction diminishes. Some designs require removal of the vacuum head to tap caked material off the filter before the unit will regain suction. If equipment isn't easy to use, operators may not take the task to completion, leaving enough material for a potential dust explosion. Look for units that have pulse jet filter cleaners that with the push of a button releases dust from the filter and cleaning can resume immediately.

In larger facilities, such as feed mills, a breakaway central vacuum system that meets OSHA's requirements for a combustible dust vacuum could reduce costs significantly. Breakaway central vacuum systems are still portable and have collection containers under 8 cubic feet. However, these systems can be hooked up to individual tubing networks around the facility to reach other floors or areas, breaking away from one tubing network, rolling to the next network, and so on.

The 15HP model can move 10,000 pounds of powder in an hour from 30 feet away if needed. The cause for the higher suction is a result of a positive displacement pump (PD pump) vacuum producer. PD pumps are capable of generating high vacuum and excellent airflow, so they have the ability to pull massive amounts of material over distances.

In one application with a breakaway system, the user was able to clean elevator pits, which are confined spaces where dust tends to accumulate because they are out of sight, without having to enter the confined space. Extension wands rated for Class II Division 2 areas eliminated the need for a three-person team to monitor the air.

For cleanup of truly explosive materials, such as gunpowder, rocket propellant, sodium azide, aluminum powder, and others that can explode if collected in dry form, Submerged Recovery Vacuum Cleaners are available and designed specifically to pick up explosive powders safely.
The explosive or hazardous material is submerged under fluid to render it inert. The unique design includes not only a high liquid level safety shut-off, but also a low liquid safety shut-off to prevent vacuum operation if insufficient liquid is in the drum.

Most NFPA guidelines for combustible dust state that a layer of dust the thickness of a paperclip is enough dust to cause a significant secondary explosion. The problem is that it doesn't account for the
different values between different dusts--some are more reactive than others, some are more easily suspended into a cloud, and some may be hazardous at half the thickness of a paperclip.

Regardless of how dust tight a process is, fugitive combustible dust will end up in places that it doesn’t belong. One of the main actions a facility can take to minimize the chance of a catastrophic dust explosion is to follow a regular housekeeping routine that eliminates dust buildup before it becomes a threat.




About the Author

David Kennedy is the general manager of VAC-U-MAX's
vacuum cleaning division and an expert in vacuum technology with more
than 30 years' experience designing industrial vacuum cleaners. Founded
in 1954, the Belleville, N.J.-based company is a premier manufacturer of
industrial vacuum cleaners for manufacturing and municipal facilities,
government installations and environmental sites. VAC-U-MAX heavy-duty
industrial vacuums improve a facility’s cleanliness, improve working
conditions and safety for employees, reduce downtime of valuable
production equipment, enhance quality control efforts, and recycle
material previously considered as waste. For information, call
1-800-VAC-U-MAX, e-mail, or visit its website,

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