Thursday, July 21, 2011

Non-compliance can be expensive

From comes a story about a judge who ruled in favor of the insurance company after a fire, when a company had not updated it's protection systems. This could also apply to the process industries. Think about what this could mean for your company. If you think compliance is expensive, look at the cost of non-compliance.

Massachusetts Judge: Obsolete Fire-Suppression Means No Claims Paid
A Massachusetts restaurant owner who failed to upgrade his obsolete fire suppression system was not entitled to collect insurance money after a massive fire six years ago — and must return $15,000 advanced to him by his insurer, an appeals court judge ruled.
At issue is an exclusion in a commercial lines policy issued to the French King restaurant in Erving, which required the restaurant owner to maintain a fire suppression system. The insurer — Interstate Fire & Casualty Co., a subsidiary of Fireman’s Fund — claimed that the fire-suppression system installed at the restaurant was obsolete, and therefore triggered the exclusion and did not require them to indemnify the restaurant.
Lawyers for Interstate argued that the restaurant owners and managers knew the system was obsolete and failed to correct problems that might have averted a fire that caused substantial damage to the restaurant in October 2005, when the system failed to function properly.
A so-called “dry” fire-suppression system, manufactured by Kidde, had been installed in the restaurant since before 1974. In 2000, the manufacturer recommended that all dry systems be upgraded to “wet” ones. Two years later, it ceased supporting, inspecting and repairing dry systems.
In 2004, the state’s Executive office of Public Safety issued a bulletin saying that dry systems were no longer supported by manufacturers, and were no longer in compliance with National Fire Protection Association codes — a requirement in the Bay State.
In 2003, the company hired by French King to service its dry system told the restaurant owners that the system was no longer in compliance and needed upgrading to a wet system — an estimated cost of $3,250. A year later, a building inspector told the restaurant it could no longer issue an inspection certificate because of the obsolete “dry” system.
A previous insurer — MassWest — had non-renewed the restaurant’s policy in 2002 because its system was out of date.
Following the fire, Interstate initially advanced the restaurant a $15,000 payment. But following an investigation of the fire suppression system, it declined to pay the claim and sought to recover the money it had paid.
French King sued the insurer and two superior court judges ruled in favor of the insurance company — finding that the system was no properly maintained and that the money should be repaid. Appeals Court Justice Francis Fecteau affirmed those rulings.
“There is nothing in the record that indicates that this was an unconditional advancement, especially because the (insurer) had not commenced investigating why the fire suppression system did not work,” he wrote in his opinion on the case. “There was evidence that the plaintiff did, in fact, know that there could be potential issues with the Kidde system” thus Interstate “was entitled to reimbursement of $15,000.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Georgia Biomass Explosion

From the Florida Times Union and, a brief story about the explosion at Georgia Biofuels.  Pelletizers, dryers, grinders, pellet coolers, dust collection systems, and storage silo's are main concerns for safety systems to prevent fires and explosions at biomass pellet plants. This fire appears to have started in one of the pellet mills or "pelletizers" which extrude wood dust into pellets at high speed creating friction and heat. The fire was then likely transferred to the pellet coolers and dust collection systems which contain combustible dust in suspension causing the deflagration.

-Jeff Nichols

Overheated assembly caused Georgia Biomass explosion |

Wood pellet production should resume today at Georgia Biomass, which was crippled by a dust explosion last month. The plant is near Waycross.
"We're ramping up now ... starting the equipment and getting it all ready to go," plant manager Ken Ciarletta said about noon Tuesday.
No one was injured in the early morning explosion June 20, which damaged some of the processing equipment at the plant that employs about 80 people.
An investigation revealed that an overheated roller/bearing assembly in a pelletizer sparked the blast at the factory, Ciarletta said.
No employees were laid off while production was shut down at the plant, he said.
As equipment was repaired and modifications made to prevent a recurrence, employees went through training and worked in other areas of the plant, he said.
He wouldn't reveal the cost of the damage, saying it was proprietary information. Ciarletta did say "the capital damage was comparatively low and has been repaired."
Georgia Biomass is a subsidiary of RWE Innogy of Germany, one of the top five electricity and gas companies in Europe. An estimated $175 million investment, the plant is in the Waycross-Ware County Industrial Park about five miles west of Waycross off U.S. 82 and U.S. 1.
The plant began operating May 12. Using yellow pine timber from throughout Southeast Georgia, its goal is to produce about 750,000 tons of wood pellets annually. Wood pellets are used as fuel - a cleaner-burning substitute for coal - primarily in Europe.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Workplace Safety * Consider Inherent Safety at Your Plant

Workplace Safety | Consider Inherent Safety at Your Plant | Chemical Processing

From, an excellent article on Inherent Safety Design (ISD).  Here are a few important highlights for ISD.  This article has been condensed for space, for the full article, click on the link above.

Consider Inherent Safety at Your Plant

Many sites can benefit -- but confusion about how to identify options stymies efforts.

By Dennis C. Hendershot, process safety consultant.

Inherently safer design (ISD) is a philosophy for designing and operating a safe process plant [1,2]. ISD aims to eliminate or significantly reduce hazards, rather than managing them with hardware and procedures. When feasible, ISD provides more robust and reliable risk management and, by eliminating costs associated with safety equipment and procedures, may make processes simpler and more economical.

Levels of Inherent Safety
Used during detailed equipment configuration and design, it can eliminate or significantly reduce many risks within a process that still contains major hazards.

You can classify levels of ISD as follows:
• First-order inherent safety — eliminating hazards from the process altogether;
• Second-order inherent safety — reducing the magnitude of a hazard, or making it extremely unlikely, perhaps nearly impossible, for an accident to occur; and
• Layers of protection — making passive, active and procedural risk-management safeguards inherently more reliable and robust.

Many opportunities exist to design a more robustly safe plant by applying second-order strategies and even by using ISD thought processes during design of safety hardware and procedures that manage risk of major inherent hazards.

Implementing ISD
In an ideal world, plant designers and operators would think about ISD throughout the process design and operational lifecycle; specific ISD review tools wouldn't be needed. But, in the real world, most facilities already exist and ISD wasn't considered during their design, or companies and engineers aren't familiar with ISD and don't look for opportunities in process design. Specific ISD review tools can help overcome these problems. Chemical engineers have used three approaches for implementing ISD in new and existing plants:
1. An inherent safety analysis of a process using an ISD checklist;
2. An independent process hazard analysis (PHA) for a plant focusing on ISD; and
3. A complete PHA of the plant with ISD considerations fully incorporated into the PHA discussions.

ISD checklist analysis. A checklist is a common PHA technique and can serve to identify ISD options. The checklist is best used in a team setting, with a variety of people familiar with all aspects of the plant and process considering the questions on the checklist. Treat it as as a "creative checklist" — in other words, use it to prompt creative thinking by the team, not just "yes" or "no" responses.

An extensive checklist of practical inherent safety considerations. It's organized around four major ISD strategies as well as plant geography:

• Substitute;
• Minimize;
• Moderate;
• Simplify; and
• Location, siting and transportation.

 It's important to make sure use of checklists doesn't limit team creativity. No general checklist can identify every potential ISD option for a specific process — the review team itself will have more knowledge about the plant and should use the checklist as a tool to facilitate creative thinking about how to eliminate or reduce hazards.

Independent ISD PHA.  This type of a review - also a team activity - focuses on specific hazards associated with the process and applies ISD strategies (substitute, minimize, moderate, simplify) to identify ways of eliminating or minimizing them. It uses one of the standard PHA tools (e.g., What If, Hazop) to pinpoint hazards but team discussion centers on ISD considerations.

CCPS has published another useful tool for consideration of ISD [4]. This book provides a series of tables of potential failure mechanisms for a wide range of process equipment and identifies potential design solutions, including inherent, passive, active and procedural approaches to managing risk.

Plant PHA incorporating ISD.  My personal preference is to minimize (an ISD strategy!) the proliferation of process reviews that seem to be required by the many demands being made on plant designers and operators. Plants are asked to do PHA, reliability and maintenance evaluations, ISO certification reviews, and now it's suggested (or required in some jurisdictions) ISD studies. Many of these use similar techniques. Combining them as much as possible increases efficiency and yields a better review. All reviews aim to accomplish the same thing — excellence in manufacturing, which includes best possible safety, environmental performance, product quality, productivity, plant reliability and profitability. These multiple demands often result in design or operational changes that improve performance in several areas simultaneously - e.g., a change boosting reliability and profitability also may enhance safety. But this isn't necessarily always true. So, it makes sense to consider as many of the competing performance demands as possible with a team having a broad understanding of the benefits and costs in all important performance areas.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Failure Modes of Equipment Reliability Processes

Failure Modes of Equipment Reliability Processes

From a great and timely article outlining various Failure Modes including not understanding the Equipment Reliability Process, and related to combustible dust fires and explosions not understanding Mechanical Ignition sources. For the full article click on the link above.

Failure Modes of Equipment Reliability Processes

Most equipment failures are a result of failed reliability processes. This article covers many of the reasons why equipment reliability processes fail. The authors have personally observed all of the reasons for reliability process failure discussed in this paper.

Failure Mode: Implementation Failure
It can be rightfully argued that all equipment reliability process (EqRP) failure modes are somehow tied to poor implementation. Not establishing an initial direction is a critical mistake in the implementation process. Establishing clear goals and expectations and a clear direction can increase the success rate of an EqRP. If upper management fails to communicate the expectations of the program, accountability can never be achieved. The authors have witnessed millions of dollars being dumped into reliability processes that had no established direction and goals. The Penn State manual Operating Equipment Asset Management identifies some critical elements that should not be overlooked when instituting the EqRP.
Top-down vision, drive, participation, support and clear, ambitious objectives are elements that should not be overlooked on implementation. It’s a good idea to examine this entire publication before implementing an EqRP.

Failure Mode: Not Understanding the EqRP (Equipment Reliability Process)
Sometimes a company will have the best of intentions for implementing an EqRP, but no one in the company may have an understanding of how machine reliability is achieved. Sometimes a person in the company may have the necessary knowledge, but they are overruled on important issues that could insure success of the EqRP. Knowing how to maintain equipment for the desired reliability requires knowledge that is acquired through training. If that knowledge isn’t present, no EqRP will bring plant reliability. There are a few good ways to maintain machines and thousands of poor ways, but there is only one best way for any given machine. It is critical to choose one of the good processes and work toward making it the best EqRP for your plant. In short, it isn’t possible to maintain a machine to required reliability if machine reliability isn’t fully understood. If managers and plant personnel don’t truly understand the EqRP, they will lack confidence in the process and will be destined to failure. Many EqRPs fail simply because the managers and practitioners don’t have confidence that it can deliver the required results.

Failure Mode: Lack of Accountability
These days, we hear much about empowerment self-direction. This sometimes leads to the idea that everyone can do their own thing as long as they do those things with good intentions. The authors are strongly in support of empowerment and a self-directed workforce as long as the empowered conform to the directives of the EqRP. The EqRP is not perfect and will need to be continuously revised and improved, but the basic framework, if correct when chosen, should remain intact. Any modification should be subject to a formal management of change. Everyone in the plant needs to be held accountable for their work.
Corporate managers often fail to keep the EqRP on track by letting small factions steer off course with practices that vary from the EqRP. This is the result of the corporate manager either not understanding the EqRP or not having confidence in the EqRP. Too often, corporations turn over the management of an EqRP to managers who have had success in non-maintenance areas, but have little or no reliability experience. Combine the lack of reliability experience with no established goals or direction and you have induced a failure mode right out of the gate. How can people be held accountable when they don’t know what is expected from them?

Failure Mode: Market Conditions Cause a Change in Plans
Too often, companies are willing to invest in various programs when times are good. Sometimes this is even to the point of waste. But when markets go sour, policies are changed in order to conserve dollar assets. In such times, EqRPs may have funds cut to the point that past gains are lost. The EqRP may not survive a bad market. Companies should develop spending strategies that are stable regardless of market conditions. A wasted dollar can never be recovered. Some producer will sell products even in down markets. The lowest-cost, highest-quality producers will survive difficult times. A good EqRP is an important factor in enabling a company to be the low-cost, high-quality producer.

Failure Mode: Commitment Falters over Time
When mangers fail in the implementation of the reliability process, it allows other failure modes to begin eroding the program. If the direction and expectations are not initially established, accountability has no teeth. Without accountability, the commitment from upper management becomes viewed by the people as being more relaxed with each and every sunrise. Before long, even upper management forgets the initial purpose of the program. As the perceived importance of the EqRP lessens, the commitment is shifted to other programs or issues.

Failure Mode: Failure to Measure Results
You can’t measure what you can’t quantify, and what gets measured gets done. The difference between a well-designed metrics system and a poor one can be detrimental to improvement efforts. A metric is essentially a clear, quantitative, objective measure to assess performance in a particular area or progress toward a goal. A good computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) coordinator can pay big dividends when helping establish metrics and deciding how data needs to be measured within the CMMS. Most systems can generate good, consistent reports if it is set up to do so. However, most of these systems are grossly underutilized, and companies are too dependent on CMMS coordinators to decide what can be measured and what can’t be measured. The metrics should be established by a committee with the EqRP goals in mind.
Six Sigma has been used on the process side in a lot of companies for sometime now. It could be argued that the utilization of black belts and green belts on the maintenance side could be beneficial, and in some companies, they are utilized in that capacity. But in the author’s experience, that generally was not the case. Managers sometimes concentrate on standard deviation of product moisture content and overlook mean time between failures. Assessment results can’t be consistent without good, solid metrics. Too many times, the authors have witnessed variations in assessment scores from one facility to the next because of inadequate metrics, peer pressure and managerial perception. Nothing can compromise the integrity of an assessment process more than the perceived inconsistencies of the assessment team’s scoring procedures.

Failure Mode: Cultural Integration
A company may establish a reliability steering committee, select champions and mentors, even train their entire workforce on cultural change. They may then hire outside people to oversee the EqRP. Is it really a good idea to hire outside people to fill roles such as plant reliability engineers, planners, schedulers, plant managers and maintenance managers, especially, if these people have little or no reliability experience? Sometimes the outside people may come from a completely different industry that doesn’t understand the manufacturing process or from the same industry but from a run-to-fail culture. Fosters of EqRPs should guard against infiltration of cultural integration. If people are brought in from different cultures, they should be in complimentary roles and trained in the company’s culture before taking on major roles in the EqRP. Too often, a little outside influence causes regression back into the run-to-fail maintenance of yesterday

Failure Mode: Lack of a Strategy for Managing Equipment
Even though condition-based monitoring methods may be established, strategies for managing equipment are still needed. Condition monitoring is a requirement for good machine management, but other strategies also should be incorporated into the EqRP. Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) are two good tools that should be considered to help with the management of equipment reliability. Consider setting up pilot machine centers and conduct RCM or TPM projects. The information learned from these pilot projects can then be transferred to similar machine centers in other facilities.

Failure Mode: Low-Hanging Fruit Syndrome
When these types of programs are initiated, the benefits are quite obvious. Just about everything attempted – from instituting an oil cleanliness program to condition monitoring or failure analysis – reaps big initial benefits and everyone is happy. But, just as soon as the low-hanging fruit is picked, a program with no direction or structure starts to look more like a dog chasing its tail. Unfortunately, this happens too often in industry. Someone suggests an EqRP and it seems like a good idea when you look around and see all of the potential for improvement. But, the EqRP is an ever-changing process and every bit of beneficial juice has to be squeezed out of the reliability process.
Both authors agree that all of the potential failure modes of an EqRP seem to point to several key elements, such as commitment to reliability, accountability and sustainability. We have witnessed some success and eventual regression of EqRPs based on some or all of these failure modes. There are other failure modes, but the ones mentioned here have been witnessed by the authors.

About the authors:
Gary Fore, CMRP, has 22 years in the energy and building products industries, specializing in reliability engineering with a heavy emphasis on condition monitoring. He holds a bachelors of science degree in mechanical engineering and an associates of applied science in electro-mechanical technology. His certifications include: Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals), Category III vibration analyst (Vibration Institute), CLS (Certified Lubrication Specialist), Level II infrared thermographer, and Machine Lubricant Analyst Level I (International Council for Machinery Lubrication).
Bill Hillman has 30 years experience in the steel industry and six years in the wood products industry. His entire career has been in equipment asset management, of which more than 20 years have been in predictive maintenance. Bill is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional, past chairman on the board of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication, certified by the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, and a certified infrared thermographer. He holds or previously held certifications by the Vibration Institute, NDT in ultrasonics, magnetic particle testing, and liquid penetrant testing. He is trained in Reliability-Centered Maintenance and is an experienced RCM facilitator. Bill is also trained in Total Productive Maintenance and 5-S. He is now a managing partner of Asset Management Specialists Company. Bill can be contacted at or 903-407-9488.

This is an excellent article outlining various Failure Modes, I would suggest another:

Failure Mode: Lack of a Strategy for Managing Change
Even though inherently safer design and safety methods may be established, strategies for managing change are still needed. Many times we see safety systems installed in processes, but personell changes have occured, and the safety sytems and equipment are in fault condition, as the new personell do not understand the opperation of the safety equipment.