Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top Sites for Fire Safety for Your Home or Business

Adapted from blog post Top 30 Sites to Teach Kids About Fire Safety

Top Sites for Fire Safety for your Home or Business

National Fire Prevention Association They are the authority on fire, electrical, and building safety. Visit to get codes and standards, safety information, training, and much more. There is also a special section for kids, blogs, and much more on fire education.

Fire Safety Medline Plus often shares trusted health information. In this section, they share fire safety and prevention tips. Scroll down to get information on fireworks, gasoline, smoking, and many other fire related topics.

Fire Extinguisher 101 This site’s goal is to teach all visitors about the different kinds of fire extinguishers and why it is important to have one in the home. There are sections on types, how they work, how to use one, maintenance, and more. You can even visit to learn about the biggest fires in history.

How Smoke Detectors Work HowStuffWorks is a leading science. In this entry, they show how smoke detectors work including the science behind them. You can also choose from tips, fire extinguishers, and more.

Fire Prevention Tips The Home Safety Council shares fire prevention tips. You can choose from sections on everything from bathroom to grilling safety. There is also an Expert Network with entries by fire safety professionals.

Fire Prevention in the Home Michael J. Sheehan edited this piece for The Senior Corner. However, everyone can take advantage of the quick and timely tips on fire safety. Help is given with fire extinguishers, fireplaces, and exit plans.

U.S. Fire Administration Get an education in fire safety on this site from FEMA. Safety topics include smoke alarms, sprinklers, escape planning, extinguishers, and even carbon monoxide.

Fire Education The US Forest Service is the home of Smokey the Bear and some online fire safety education. Visit here to learn the importance of fire safety outdoors. There are also sections on equipment, management, and even fire science.

CAL Fire You don’t have to live in the state to take advantage of this site from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. They have fact sheets, teacher’s tools, kids section, and even a video where a fireman shows a child how to use the water hose. There is even safety by holiday such as Fourth of July or Halloween.

Fire Safety Read this guide on fire safety from the U.S. Department of Labor. They include many standards set by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

Remember that each home or business is different and that the above sites provide information about fire safety and are for educational purposes only. Visit your local fire department to learn more on fire safety in your area and always dial 911 when in an actual emergency.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

HazardEx - Dust to Dust

From the HazardEx website, a good overview of hazardous materials, fines, explosion vents.

HazardEx - Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust

28 February 2011

Author : J GALE

Dr Julian Hought of risk management specialists, HFL Risk Services, explains the hidden dangers of flour and other dry ingredients and how we can guard against potentially fatal explosions.

Dr Julian HoughtEvery year an estimated 2000 dust explosions occur in factories and refineries in Europe. There are approximately 50 reported dust explosions in the UK alone – that’s roughly one every single week. But these explosions are not solely the preserve of chemical or wood processing companies.

A staggering 24 per cent of them occur within the food industry.
In fact dry ingredients such as flour, custard powder, instant coffee, sugar, dried milk, potato powder, soup powder and cocoa powder have been responsible for 120 deaths in the past 30 years.

All dust explosions are preventable. However in order to prevent them you first need to know how they can occur. Essentially for a dust explosion to occur, five conditions must co-exist:

 Combustible dust
 Dispersion
 An oxidiser (such as air)
 Confinement
 Ignition source

These five factors are known as the dust explosion pentagon. Practically all organic-based dusts can explode, given the right conditions. It’s important to be aware that it is not just a question of a build-up of dust on a surface that can have devastating results. Explosions can also occur inside vessels; during storage, handling and transportation; and during any processes such as blending, milling or spray drying.

By way of an example, the overfilling of a hopper with cornstarch during custard making triggered a dust explosion in 1981 at General Foods, Banbury. This created a dust cloud which was ignited by nearby electrical equipment, leaving nine men badly burnt. Thankfully there were no fatalities, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for the explosion which occurred in a grain storage complex at Société d’Exploitation Maritime Blayaise in August 1997. This killed 11 people in nearby offices and the ferocity of the explosion is comprehensible when we consider that significantly-sized debris from the explosion was found up to 100 metres from the silo.

You might argue that these are examples from several years ago and that things have now changed – sadly not. Less than 3 years ago 13 workers died and 40 were hospitalised following a sugar dust explosion at the Imperial Sugar Refinery in Georgia, USA – and many more explosions occur on a smaller scale every week. In the case of Imperial Sugar, it was the secondary dust explosion caused by dust layers in the workplace (often referred to as ‘fugitive dust’) that caused the major loss.

Of course there is legislation in place to prevent the occurrence of such tragedies. Under UK law, where there is the potential for dust explosions, companies must comply with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). This requires companies to:

 Find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the fire and explosion risks are
 Put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
 Put controls in place to reduce the effects of an incident involving dangerous substances
 Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
 Identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas

Where a workplace containing potentially flammable atmospheres exists, the employer must ensure that the overall explosion safety measures are confirmed (verified) as being safe. This must be done by a person or organisation competent to consider the particular risks in the workplace and the adequacy of the explosion control and other measures put in place.

To safeguard against a potential dust explosion a ‘Basis of Safety’ must be defined. This should ideally be based on preventative measures, but where this is not possible, adequate protection measures must be employed.

Effective prevention measures will prevent the fire triangle (fuel, oxygen, heat) from being formed through either the avoidance of a flammable atmosphere or the elimination of ignition sources.

Protection measures on the other hand include explosion venting, explosion suppression or containment. Where explosion protection measures are employed it is critical that suitable ‘chokes’ are in place to prevent the explosion propagating up or downstream.

In a bakery or food manufacturing environment, where dry powders such as flour and sugar are handled, potential flammable atmospheres can arise in equipment such as silos, bins, hoppers, cyclones, mills and filters. There are also numerous possible ignition sources. The most common of these include mechanical friction, electrostatic discharges, hot surfaces, smouldering nests, and mechanical sparks (e.g. during maintenance).

Since it is difficult to guarantee that ignition sources will not arise during the life of the plant, explosion prevention is not usually employed alone. Safety for the types of equipment listed above is usually based on protective measures.

We have already established that the presence of dust from dry powders combined with an ignition source has the potential to cause an explosion. But just how likely is an explosion to occur? And with what magnitude? In order to demonstrate the safety of a plant it is sometimes necessary to measure the flammable properties of the powders involved. The violence of a dust explosion can be measured by measuring the rate of pressure rise (Kst) and determining the maximum pressure that could be achieved in an unvented explosion (Pmax).
Depending on the Kst value, the dust risks can be classified as follows:

Dust explosion class KST ( Bar m s-1) Characteristics

St 0 0 No explosion
St 1 >0 <200 Weak explosion
St 2 >200 <300 Strong explosion
St 3 >300 Very strong explosion

Other characteristics that may need to be tested are:
Vertical tube apparatus – this explosibility test is used to identify which powders require an explosion risk assessment and which don’t. Under this test, dust can be classified as either combustible or non-combustible (Group A or B respectively).Obviously if dust is classed as non-combustible it cannot explode.

Minimum ignition energy – a test to assess how sensitive a dust is to ignition by determining the minimum ignition energy required to ignite the dust/air mixture.
Layer ignition temperature – This is often used to assess the ignition risk of equipment and is a test to find the minimum ignition temperature of a hot surface which will ignite a layer of dust deposited on it.

Minimum ignition temperature – again used to assess the ignition risk of equipment, this test determines the minimum ignition temperature of a dust cloud on a hot surface.
The DSEAR regulations require areas where there is the potential for dust explosions to be ‘zoned’ and equipment within these zones to be suitably protected.

Zone 20: A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is present continuously, for long periods, or frequently. In general these conditions arise only inside containers, pipes, vessels etc. i.e. usually only inside plant (mills, dryers, mixers, silos, etc.)

Zone 21: A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is likely to occur in normal operation occasionally. This zone can, for example, include places in the immediate vicinity of for example powder filling and emptying points.

Zone 22: A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short period only. This zone can include places in the vicinity of the plant containing dust, if dust can escape at leaks and form deposits in hazardous quantities.

Once these areas have been identified then a suitable plan and (if beneficial) elevation drawing is required. The phrase ‘ATEX compliant is often used to refer to electrical and mechanical equipment to be used in hazardous (zoned) areas. Zone 20 requires Category 1 equipment (also covers protective devices), Zone 21 Category 2, Zone 22 Category 3. The intent is to have more ignition protected equipment in the more hazardous area. Thus an overall acceptable level of risk is achieved. Old equipment predating the DSEAR Regulations can be continued to be used provided that a suitable and sufficient ignition risk assessment is carried out.

It is critical that housekeeping within the workplace is kept at a very high standard. It is often the secondary dust explosion that causes the most destruction (as we know was the case at the Imperial Sugar Refinery). This can occur when the pressure wave from a small primary explosion rouses dust layers that are then ignited by the following flame front. A dust layer of just 1/32 inch thickness over 5 percent of the floor area is sufficient to cause a very destructive dust explosion. That’s about the thickness of a paper clip. Regular visual checks should be made of the floor, but also of overhead pipes and vents etc.

Despite the fact that there are regulations in place to guard against and prevent them, dust explosions in the food industry will continue to kill people. Why? Because employers have not carried out their risk assessment and ensured appropriate measures are in place.

The law requires that explosion risk assessments must be carried out by someone ‘competent in the field of explosion protection’ through experience or professional training. There are several risk management companies with the expertise to undertake a full assessment of all credible release scenarios, determine what is required and then provide the necessary support to ensure that your workforce and your business are fully protected. If you cannot demonstrate that you have met your statutory duties under DSEAR, don’t delay – act now before it’s too late. You will not only be saving lives, but also saving your business from loss of revenue due to forced plant closures and potential compensation claims.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Events leading up to Federal Mogul Explosion

From WSLS10 Roanoak, VA, here is "the rest of the story".

Events leading up to Federal Mogul Explosion: "WSLS has obtained more information through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act."
In information obtained through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, WSLS has learned more about the December explosion at the Federal Mogul plant in Blacksburg.
According to inspectors the explosion happened inside a 14 inch diameter exhaust ventilation duct.
The ducts were inspected in early November. Federal Mogul employee said could not remember if mention of the explosivity of aluminum dust to inspectors or not.
Then inspectors submitted a request to Federal Mogul to do an inspection of the exhaust ducts, also in November, but according to the report, due to work schedules at Federal Mogul the inspection kept getting pushed back until it was accomplished on December 30.
The inspection revealed only one exhaust duct needed cleaning of the 8 that were inspected/ This duct was on bonding line number two and it exhausted aluminum dust from the operation, so it was scheduled for cleaning the next day, December 31.
Technicians doing the cleaning estimated the duct was half full of debris build up, and there was no immediate knowledge at Federal Mogul of the duct have been cleaned in the past.
Duct was cleaned by vacuuming. The section of the duct which ran back into the machine had been successfully cleaned, and the crew was now cleaning the section fo the duct which ran into the bag house, when one crew member asked to turn the suction down on the vacuum.
Then fire and explosion happened, after a pipe was put in. Two people on the lift were burned, then fire traveled through the vacuum line to the truck andset part of the truck on fire.

Friday, June 3, 2011

CSB investigates Hoeganaese - Finds Tons of Combustible Dust

U.S. Chemical Safety Board

The CSB investigates Hoeganaese finds literally "tons" of combustile dust on-site.

CSB - U.S. CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD -- An independent federal agency investigating chemical accidents to protect workers, the public, and the environment
Friday June 3, 2011
Nashville, TN
CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso and
Investigator-in-Charge Johnnie Banks
Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso: 
Good morning and welcome to our news conference. I am Rafael Moure-Eraso, Chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, or CSB. We are here today to update the media and the public on the status of our ongoing investigation into the explosion and ensuing fire that occurred at the Hoeganaes facility on Friday, May 27 in Gallatin, Tennessee.  Tragically, two workers died and a third was gravely injured.
First, a quick word about the CSB. We are an independent federal agency charged with investigating chemical accidents and reporting on their root causes. We are not a regulatory agency and do not issue fines or penalties. We make formal safety recommendations to prevent similar accidents from happening again. Accidents can be prevented if we find out what happened, and share the findings with industry and the public.
The Hoeganaes facility in Gallatin was also the site of a flash fire on January 31st that fatally burned two workers. A similar flash fire occurred on March 29th and caused one injury.  
The CSB is continuing its investigation into all three accidents. To date, CSB and its experts have done extensive testing on the metal dust from the facility. Tests show that powder samples collected from the sites of both the January and March accidents were combustible and could be exploded under test conditions. These test results largely agree with results obtained by Hoeganaes itself prior to the January accident.
This morning we will be playing a short video clip showing the testing of the dust gathered from the facility.
Combustible dust is an insidious workplace hazard when it accumulates on surfaces, especially elevated surfaces. Since the CSB was established in 1998, three of the four deadliest accidents we have investigated were determined to be combustible dust explosions.
A wide range of common combustible materials can explode in finely powdered form, including metals, wood, coal, flour, sugar, plastics, and many chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
This is a sample of the metal dust that was obtained by CSB investigators from elevated surfaces above the site of the most recent accident on Friday.  It is a finely powdered iron dust. It is similar to material we previously tested, which was shown to cause flash fires or explode when suspended in air, confined, and brought into contact with an ignition source.
Today, we will be detailing the progress of our investigation into the accidents that occurred at the Hoeganaes facility. I would now like to introduce CSB Team Lead Johnnie Banks, the investigator-in-charge for this case. He will be discussing the CSB’s activities to date, in more detail.
Investigator Banks:   
            First, allow me to briefly describe the operations at the Hoeganaes facility and recap the CSB’s previous activities at the site. The Hoeganaes facility employs approximately 180 workers and manufactures “atomized” iron powder that is sold to the automotive and other industries for the production of metal parts using powder metallurgy.
Briefly, the plant collects scrap iron, which is then melted, sprayed into powder form, and then annealed using hydrogen gas using a large continuous furnace. This powder is then further milled, packaged, and eventually sold as a final product.
 During all three of our trips to the Hoeganaes plant my team observed alarming quantities of metal dust within close proximity to the incident locations. This was of particular concern as metal dust flash fires present a greater burn injury threat than flammable gas or vapor flash fires. Metal dust fires have the potential to radiate more heat and some metals burn at extremely high temperatures in comparison to other combustible materials. In addition to visible dust particles in the air, 2 to 3-inch layers of dust were observed on flat surfaces, rafters, and railings throughout the facility. 
Following the May 27 accident, the CSB arrived at the Hoeganaes facility at approximately 11:00 am on Saturday May 28. We documented and examined the accident site and began interviews with company personnel. To date we have determined the following preliminary sequence of events.
According to witness interviews the incident took place on Friday, May 27, 2011, between 6:30 and 6:40 am. At about 6:10 am, two annealing operators heard a hissing sound in a trench that housed a number of process pipes carrying hydrogen, nitrogen, and cooling water. When the operators heard the hissing sound, they summoned plant maintenance personnel to lift a cover over the area where the gas leak was thought to have occurred. (show the cover following the accident)
After several attempts to lift the cover with a pry bar were unsuccessful, a call went out to get a forklift. The cover was attached to the forklift with a metal chain and raised.  As the cover was pried opened, an explosion occurred.  Some witnesses saw a flash of light; some heard a muffled boom and felt the building shaking from the explosion. The building filled with dust and the lights went out. Witnesses saw burning dust raining down from above.
The initial explosion, we now know, involved hydrogen gas that had been leaking into the trench from a large hole in the vent pipe. However, the witness statements as well as the physical evidence leave no doubt that combustible iron dust was also involved in the aftermath of the explosion.
Examining the scene following the incident, CSB investigators observed splatterings of burned iron dust.
A hydrogen fire, described as three to four feet high, continued until an operator in the area closed a valve on the hydrogen piping. 
Hoeganaes personnel called 9-1-1 and immediate medical attention was provided by Hoeganaes emergency responders. Gallatin Fire Department responders and EMTs arrived shortly afterwards and took over first aid. Three of the victims were life-flighted to the Vanderbilt Hospital Burn Unit. Tragically, as you know, two victims have since passed away and a third remains critically injured with extensive burns.
            The team examined the area of the plant where the most recent incident occurred. On this diagram, the workers fatally injured by this accident are reported to have been standing at the openings where covers of the trench were removed—north and south of the band for Band Furnace #1. The material being transported on this band, or conveyor, is the same as the material involved in the January 31st incident. The covers on the trench that were not lifted showed about a tenth of an inch of accumulated dust. We also observed iron dust on other surfaces in the area of the incident.
            Yesterday CSB investigators, along with TOSHA and company personnel examined the pipe responsible for the release of flammable hydrogen gas.  For the first time, we were able to locate the hole which allowed the release of flammable hydrogen. This picture taken yesterday shows the large, three- by seven-inch hole in the hydrogen pipe. The trench that held the pipe showed signs of dust intrusion, pipes inside in the trench showed signs of corrosion. The CSB now plans further efforts to understand why the piping failure occurred.
            We have been in the process of obtaining items of flame retardant work uniforms worn by the victims at the time of the incident. This clothing, like that of the January 31 victims, was heavily damaged by fire, indicating an intense thermal event. We plan to examine the clothing and other evidence to try to assess the relative contributions of hydrogen and of iron dust to the incident that occurred.
            Immediately prior to the May 27 explosion and fire, the CSB was actively involved in ongoing testing of iron powder from the previous incidents, which were solely dust related.
            I will now play a short video showing the testing that was conducted on the metal dust collected after the January 31 incident.  The video was obtained just one day prior to the May 27 tragedy. 
I will be showing two different tests – First you will see them as filmed at normal speed; then you will see each of the two tests filmed at 1,000 frames a second, so you will see the playback in slow motion.   
The beginning of the video shows the laboratory near Boston where we conducted the tests.   You can see the experimental setup provides for dust to fall onto an existing flame, in front of protective clothing that has been set up just behind the flame.
             As you can see from the video, the small sample of just over one ounce of fine iron powder produces an intense flash fire when dropped onto a gas flame.
If this size fire can result from just an ounce of iron powder, you can imagine the magnitude of the fire and explosion hazard from the estimated tons of dust accumulated in the Hoeganaes plant.
The CSB’s investigation will continue to move forward with a comprehensive examination of existing codes, standards, and inspection procedures applicable to this facility. We will also be testing additional dust collected from the most recent accident site.
Now I would like to turn the podium back over to Chairperson Moure-Eraso.
Chairperson Moure-Eraso:
Thank you, Investigator Banks. I would like to briefly discuss current codes and standards that have been developed by the National Fire Protection Association – or NFPA – to address combustible dust hazards, as they relate to the recent accidents at Hoeganaes.
As we stated in Wednesday’s news briefing, Hoeganaes has suspended production at the Gallatin plant in the wake of last Friday’s tragedy. It is my view as the chairman of the Chemical Safety Board that Hoeganaes and its corporate parent, GKN, need to make significant safety improvements to this plant before resuming the manufacturing of iron powder. Without such improvements, there is too great a risk that additional tragic accidents will occur here in the future.
Hoeganaes should immediately begin comprehensive actions to bring the Gallatin plant into compliance with the national fire code requirements for combustible metal dust. These recommended practices are contained in the standards of the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA – specifically in NFPA 484, the Standard for Combustible Metals.
The CSB’s lab testing – as well as the testing by Hoeganaes itself prior the accidents this year – show that the iron dust at Hoeganaes is covered by the requirements of NFPA 484 for both combustibility and explosibility.
Our preliminary examination of the plant shows many violations of these safety practices for combustible metal powder. Key safety requirements from NFPA 484 are not being adequately implemented at the Gallatin plant, such as:
·         Conveyors and other equipment are not adequately sealed to prevent the release of dust
·         Combustible dust has been allowed to accumulate on horizontal surfaces, and housekeeping remains inadequate, particularly for elevated surfaces
·         The dust collection system at the Hoeganaes plant is severely deficient, is improperly designed, and has leaks. In fact, our investigators observed combustible dust backflushing into the building more than once every minute from this system.
·         The electrical equipment throughout most of the plant is only suitable for general industrial use, not for a flammable environment
·         The plant has many uncontrolled potential ignition sources, including large open flames and hot surfaces from furnaces, exposed light fixtures, exposed bearings which could overheat from dust, internal combustion engines, and welding equipment.
As you can see, there are a number of serious safety problems at this plant that need to be immediately addressed before production resumes. No one should underestimate the scope of the task. Far more than a one-time cleaning is required. Without design and engineering improvements, dust will quickly accumulate back to its former levels.
 In addition the most recent accident exposes potential weaknesses in hydrogen safety, which is equally important. Our investigation will therefore look at the need for safeguards such as hydrogen gas alarms, automatic shut-off systems, and ongoing maintenance and inspection of hydrogen piping. We will also examine the company’s procedures and training for response to a potential flammable gas leak, as well as the adequacy of the national codes for pipe maintenance and leak detection.
There is a vital need for comprehensive improvements to the safety of the Hoeganaes facility, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the CSB investigation of the three recent accidents. I do not believe the safety changes can await the final CSB report, which will include the formal recommendations of the Board.
Other companies around the country have experienced catastrophic dust explosions and fires, such as Imperial Sugar, where 14 workers were killed in 2008 and the massive sugar packaging plant was destroyed. Similar accidents occurred in 2003 in Indiana, North Carolina, and Kentucky. All were investigated by the Chemical Safety Board. Companies like Imperial Sugar rebuilt and completely redesigned their plants, in close consultation with leading dust experts. I believe similar action is warranted here.   Hoeganaes will likely need to engage significant engineering and safety expertise in order to reduce the hazards at this plant.
I emphasize the devastating results that dust explosions can have on a facility, workers and the surrounding community.  We have been deeply affected by the deaths of the two latest victims this week.   As I have said on numerous occasions, I believe that worker safety is a basic human right. That fundamental belief is why I am so honored to head the Chemical Safety Board after being appointed by the president one year ago. No workers should die or be severely burned or injured simply trying to earn a living and provide for their families.
I ask Hoeganaes to recommit itself to that objective, which we share. If Hoeganaes truly embraces that goal, I believe the company will realize that significant process changes are in order. Those changes should occur before any other worker is exposed to potential harm at the Gallatin plant.
The continued presence of combustible dust throughout this facility presents a hazardous work environment. The inadequate maintenance of hydrogen piping is yet another serious concern. The net result is that this facility is not adequately addressing the safety needs of its employees.
            Thank you. We now invite any questions the members of the news media may now have, and request that you please identify yourself and your news organization.

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