Friday, January 28, 2011

Converting Saw Dust to Biofuel

This story from Bill Esler at, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Prof. George Huber provides a simplified explanation of wood saw dust to fuel conversion using "rapid catalytic pyrolysis technology technology" in the lab.

Converting wood saw dust to gasoline

Anellotech licensed "rapid catalytic pyrolysis technology" from University of Massachusetts Amherst that could make competitive fuels with petroleum-based counterparts like gasoline even at $35 per barrel of oil, less than half the current price. Read more about saw dust to fuel conversion

Monday, January 17, 2011

OSHA 10 Hour Safety Training-Now You Can Cut Your Risk Of OSHA

 From Safety Online.

OSHA 10 Hour Safety Training-Now You Can Cut Your Risk Of OSHA

OSHA compliance management can be a very tough act.However,there are still some industries that consistently manage to have fewer violations.Now you can achieve this with the help of the OSHA Safety Training Courses.
Many companies have been penalized for not being able to comply with the safety and health standards, rules and regulations set up by OSHA. Now you can cut those risks with OSHA 10 Hour safety Training Courses.
Present below is a glimpse into how these companies and industries really excel at OSHA safety compliance. This list mainly highlights the common denominators that organizations with the fewest health and safety violations have:
  1. Hazard correction and elimination: Another important point that's equally significant after locating and assessing hazards is that successful organizations fix them in a timely, systematic and orderly fashion. Although the primary purpose of fixing occupational hazards is to prevent those ever-so-costly injuries and mishaps, OSHA compliance is an inevitable by-product of this effort.
  2. Safety inspections and program audits: Every successful organization or company conducts scheduled safety and health inspections and program audits,in order to identify compliance gaps and hazards.But it is also vital to note that even the most simple of inspection checklists can help organizations and companies reduce their risk of OSHA safety violations.But you need to make sure that these simple checklists are customized for the industry in question and are used on a regular basis.Audits usually involve record keeping training, hazard identification and control and in depth documentation.Overall,every inspection or audit needs to focus on points such as Guarding,Hazard Communication, Electrical Safety,Respiratory Protection,Personal Protective Equipment, Fire Extinguishers,Blood borne Pathogens and Abrasive Wheel Machinery.
  3. OSHA 10 Hour Training Courses: Employees must receive safety training in order to identify,control and prevent hazards.Also,middle managers and supervisors need to learn about their own safety and health responsibilities.
  4. Emergency planning: The latest research has proven that failing to invest in emergency equipment and to provide emergency training can result in as many OSHA violations as any other safety area. This topic is clearly on OSHA's radar since 9/11.

Yes! Your company does have an option,when it comes to being penalized by OSHA.All you need to do as an employer is to encourage your employees to enroll themselves in one of the OSHA 10 Hour Training Courses.Their awareness and knowledge will one day save you millions.

Is OSHA Killing the American Dream?

From the The OH&S Wire blog archive, here is an interesting take on OSHA enforcement.

Blog archive

In a June 2009 speech at the American Society of Safety Engineers' annual conference, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said: "There is a new sheriff in town.... Make no mistake about it; the Department of Labor is back in the enforcement business. We are serious, very serious." And true to her word, Solis dispatched her new SWAT teams to show that she means business. The new sheriff's activities are further evidenced by the majority of news releases issued under OSHA's new leadership: enforcement reports with company names, a list of violations, and proposed monetary penalties.

Click on the title above to read the rest of the story.

You can also follow our lively discussion on the Linkedin ComDust group page.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Explosion Venting Reduces Severity of Explosions

Grain elevator had prior explosion in 2008 which caused much more damage and a worker injury. CEO notes that explosion protection best engineering practices lessened the severity of this recent explosion.

This incident is a prime example of how ComDust incidents will continue to occur and only the probability and severity can be reduced through best engineering practices and controls.

"Explosion vents on the elevator legs and roofs released the brunt of the impact", said fire chief and All Points vice-president of agronomy Mark Ballmer.

**I saw this originally on the Combustible Dust Policy Institute blog, and wanted to re-post it here to point out the importance of safety systems such as Explosion Venting and Explosion Protection-

Spark causes Fire in Fine dust buildup at feed-processing operation

Fine dust buildup at Winnipeg feed-processing operation

"It's believed a spark from the machinery inside the hopper ignited the blaze, which is burning in the feed residue that had been encrusted along the walls of the bin." Prior fire several days earlier causing an estimated $20,000 damage.Winnipeg Free Press

Many other manufacturing facilities have similiar process situations (ignition sources) where either a spark or spontaneous ignition can ignite the process materials causing a combustible dust related fire. Good housekeeping and maintenance is essential in removing the buildup of combustible dust or residue. Without the fuel, a combustible dust related fire will not occur.

**Spark Detection & Extinguishing Systems, Housekeeping, and Maintenance are keys to helping prevent combustible dust fires and explosions in the process industries-

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recycling Plant Explosion caught on film

From Recycling Plant Explosion caught on film.

CCTV footage of the blast at the Sterecycle recycling plant in England, which killed one man and left another fighting for life … continue

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Improving Your Machine Safety Program

Improving Your Machine Safety Program -- Occupational Health & Safety

Shift the focus from avoiding negative outcomes to achieving positive results.

From Steve Ludwig, Mary Joann Thurman writing in OHS.

Understand that safety should be considered a sustainable business practice, much like product quality, because a single significant failure can dramatically affect production costs, and significantly change customer and investor perceptions of your company. Realize that automation technology, including safety systems, can deliver positive, business-enhancing benefits while mitigating risks and reducing costs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Better Identification of Fire Hazards Needed -- Occupational Health & Safety

Better Identification of Fire Hazards Needed -- Occupational Health & Safety

In this article from the OSHA On-line and OHS Occupation Health & Safety site, John Astad of the Combustible Dust Policy Institute discusses that NFIRS 5.0 incident reporting system.

John has done excellent research on NFIRS the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

This article explains why we need to improve the reporting framework for NFIRS, and how that will help all stakeholders including safety professionals, firemen and local code enforcement better understand the causes of and prevention of industrial process fires and explosions.

Better Identification of Fire Hazards Needed

Stakeholders seeking control measures to minimize the probability and severity of combustible dust incidents should work more closely with the fire service.
Combustible dust-related fires occur with alarming regularity throughout the manufacturing, non-manufacturing, and utility sectors. In 2008 following the tragic Imperial Sugar Refinery dust explosion, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute discovered through researching media accounts that more than 80 percent of combustible dust incidents were fires. The majority of these fire incidents sustained minor property damage with no fatalities and minimal injuries.

Normalization of Deviation
A troubling situation arises when nothing catastrophic follows recurring combustible dust-related fires. Illuminating histories of catastrophic dust explosions investigated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) during the past eight years indicated that, prior to deadly dust explosions, facilities experienced numerous non-threatening combustible dust-related fires.

Fire service professionals, facility owners, occupational safety managers, and workers misinterpret that the manufacturing process is safe following a minor combustible dust-related fire, especially when, in most instances, the small fire is suppressed by the workforce with fire extinguishers and a fire department response is not required.

This is a false interpretation that all is okay following these non-consequential fires. The notion that through random luck a catastrophic dust explosion hasn't happened yet further reinforces this false interpretation. This train of thought is referred to as "normalization of deviation," such as in the repeatable combustible dust-related fires that seem a normal part of the process.

National Fire Incident Reporting System
On a much larger scale, the problem is not being thoroughly recognized at the national, state, and local fire service organizational levels. In contrast, fire department personnel are the first to respond to combustible dust-related fires. When fire department personnel return to the local fire station following response to fires, they voluntarily report the incidents either manually or electronically to the State Incident Reporting Authority, which many cases is the state fire marshal, utilizing the automated National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS 5.0). The State

Reporting Authority then forwards the incident data to the National Fire Data Center administered by USFA, the U.S. Fire Administration.

A problem arises in this national reporting system where there are no data elements specifically identifying manufacturing process equipment involved in ignition of combustible dust. If process condition fire hazards can't be identified, then how can they be controlled through administrative and best engineering practices?

An endless, frustrating cycle continues and, as time goes by, the fire department returns to suppress yet another repeatable, dust-related fire where there are no injuries and minimal or no property damage in most instances. Now, there is normalization of deviation among all stakeholders concerning the lack of comprehensive combustible dust fire prevention and control measures. But let's not forget that all big fires or catastrophic dust explosions started out as small fires.

Confined Structure Fires
Many combustible dust incidents are similar to confined structure fires such as in a flue, commercial compactor, incinerator overload/malfunction, contained trash, cooking, and fuel burner/boiler fires. Confined structure fires are fires in non-combustible containers that rarely result in serious injury and have no property losses due to flame damage, which is illustrated in the loss/1,000 confined fires according to NFIRS 5.0 data.

In 2009, NFPA Fire Analysis and Research compiled data from the NFIRS 5.0 database in addition to NFPA fire surveys and reported in "Structure Fires in Industrial and Manufacturing Properties" that 23 percent of equipment involved in ignition (EII) were confined structure fires. Prior to enhanced reporting measures of NFIRS 5.0, many confined structure fires were considered smoke scares by the fire service and not reported or were underreported.

Manufacturing process equipment such as pneumatic ductwork and dust collectors also are non-combustible containers. The NFIRS 5.0 system of USFA does not include many types of manufacturing equipment involved in ignition (EII) of combustible dust-related fires. One has to wonder whether incidents such as in the above process equipment are also considered smoke scares by local fire departments.

Equipment Involved In Ignition
The helpful NPFA report on fires at manufacturing facilities also identified that 23 percent, or $107 million, of direct property damage occurred at industrial and manufacturing facilities where the equipment involved in ignition (EII) was unclassified. This fact reaffirms that if equipment involved in ignition isn't identified (unclassified) in incident reports, then corrective control measures cannot be appropriately implemented.

Manufacturing fires are under the heading of nonresidential fires, which also includes storage in structures, public assembly, stores, offices, educational, and institutional facilities. USFA NFIRS structure fire data for 2003-2006 indicated manufacturing fires accounted for:
  • 1.4 percent of structure fires
  • 0.2 percent of structure fatalities
  • 1.7 percent of structure fire injuries
  • 4.2 percent of direct property loss of structures
While it is good news that the fatality and injury count is minimal following manufacturing fires, it should not deviate from continued proactive fire prevention and control measures so as to prevent future catastrophic events.

Reinforcing the idea that combustible dust-related fires are a subset of all fires and not a separate entity that has entirely different heat sources than the ignition of flammable gases, liquids, and vapors is absolutely essential. Most importantly, the only difference between these flammable products and combustible dust is vast differences in ignition sensitivity, such as minimum ignition energy (MIE) and flashpoint/minimum ignition temperature.

The CSB Dust Hazard Study
In 2006, the CSB released its "Combustible Dust Hazard Study" findings and proposed recommendations to OSHA, manufacturing sector stakeholders, and the public. This report was the direct result of the three catastrophic combustible dust explosions that occurred in 2003 in which CSB was the lead federal investigation team seeking root causes. The board noted in the report:
"… no federal or state agency keeps specific statistics on combustible dust incidents, nor does any single data source provide a comprehensive collection of all these incidents"
Readers of the study might be confused by the above statement, especially because the USFA National Fire Data Center collects specific statistics on all fires through NFIRS 5.0. This reporting system was initiated in 1976 when six states piloted an incident reporting system that is now referred to as NFIRS.

Process Fire Descriptors
NFIRS 5.0 reporting includes manufacturing fires that are classified as nonresidential structures. Combustible dust-related fires in manufacturing facilities would not be excluded from a NFIRS incident report. Quality of fire incident data is continually improved through input of state fire marshals via the National Fire Information Council (NFIC). A brief review of the "NFIRS 5.0 Complete Reference Guide" Fire Module provides excellent fire descriptors concerning heat source and factors contributing to ignition in regard to all fires, including combustible dust-related fires.

The numerous fire descriptors from the Fire Module are divided into three main sections. This offers insight into identifying combustible dust ignition hazards concerning process materials, process conditions (equipment), and process situations (ignition factors).

The NFPA 901 Standard
NFPA has done a superb job for many decades with dedicated technical committees diligently drafting combustible dust industry standards that provide workplace protection with fire/explosion mitigation and prevention measures. One standard of which many stakeholders might not be aware is NFPA 901 Standard Classifications for Incident Reporting and Fire Protection Data. This standard provides USFA, state fire marshals, and fire departments with numerous fire descriptor and data elements utilized in NFIRS.

The primary importance of NFPA 901 is that it assists in identifying fire/explosion hazards through incident-reporting methodology. The NFPA technical committee on incident reporting that incorporates fire data descriptors was formed in 1963, more than a decade prior to formal NFIRS reporting.
In contrast, the NFPA combustible dust standards are specific to control measures. A problem arises in identifying combustible dust hazards because NFPA 901 does not provide a specific data element on item first ignited of combustible particulate solids such as combustible dust. Instead, NFIRS utilizes the general fire descriptor data elements of dusts, fiber, lint, sawdust, and excelsior.

The problem is exacerbated when NFIRS 5.0 does not require entering the data element of type of item ignited when the above, item first ignited such as dust, is submitted in the NFIRS reporting form. Yet it is extremely important to identify the type of combustible dust, whether it is wood, chemical, plastic, paper, metal, food, etc., especially when all of these combustible dusts possess varying fire and explosion properties. How does one evaluate and control the hazard if identifying the type of combustible dust has been omitted?

A vision for the future is for all stakeholders who seek control measures to minimize the probability and reduce the severity of combustible dust incidents to work more closely with the fire service. Begin by inviting the local fire department to conduct a pre-fire inspection of your manufacturing process that notes the process material, conditions, and situations.

Initially, the combustible dust problem is a local fire prevention and control issue of maintaining life safety. It is secondarily an occupational safety issue. Good housekeeping will remove the fuel load for a catastrophic dust incident from secondary explosions. However, combustible dust-related fires and primary explosions will continue because of the inherent nature of the manufacturing process with materials, operating equipment, and ignition sources omnipresent.

Only the probability and severity can be continually minimized. A good start in the hazard analysis is identifying the hazard. NFIRS 5.0 provides an excellent resource in this area. It will take much needed input from all stakeholders for improvements in combustible dust-related fire incident reporting, and perhaps this article will provide a basic roadmap.

About the Author
John Astad is Director and Research Analyst of the Combustible Dust Policy Institute of Santa Fe, Texas. To contact him, visit