Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities

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Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities

Report: NFPA's "Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities"
Author: Ben Evarts

Issued: April 2012 

An overview of industrial and manufacturing property fires, including trend tables, causes, time of day, day of week, month of year, and area of origin. 

During 2006-2010, an estimated 42,800 fires in or at industrial or manufacturing properties (including utility, defense, agriculture, and mining) were reported to U.S. fire departments per year, with associated annual losses of 22 civilian deaths, 300 civilian injuries, and $951 million in direct property damage. Seventy percent of these fires occurred outside or in unclassified locations, 20% occurred in structures and 9% in vehicles. Two-thirds (66%) of the combined industrial or manufacturing facility structure fires occurred specifically in manufacturing facilities (as opposed to utility, industrial, defense, agriculture, and mining properties).  

Industrial Fires

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wood Pellet opperator agrees to correct explosion and fire hazards

New England Wood Pellet agrees to correct explosion and fire hazards at New Hampshire facility following US Labor Department actions

OSHA Regional News Release

U.S. Department of Labor
Office of Public Affairs
Region 1

Region 1 News Release: 12-2265-BOS/BOS 2012-314
Nov. 28, 2012
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald    Andre J. Bowser
Phone: 617-565-2075    617-565-2074

New England Wood Pellet agrees to correct explosion and fire hazards
at New Hampshire facility following US Labor Department actions
Jaffrey wood pellet manufacturer also will hire independent expert, pay $100,000 OSHA fine

BOSTON – After enforcement actions taken in relation to a series of explosions and fires at its Jaffrey, N.H., manufacturing plant, New England Wood Pellet LLC will take systemic and substantive steps to prevent any further recurrences as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The company also will pay a fine of $100,000.

OSHA cited the company in April for violations of workplace safety standards in connection with the first incident of explosions and fires, which occurred on Oct. 20, 2011, and took 15 hours and more than 100 firefighters from 12 towns to put down. An inspection by OSHA's Concord Area Office conducted in response to that incident identified numerous fire and explosion hazards stemming from the absence of protective devices, which were exacerbated by a buildup of sawdust on surfaces throughout the plant.

New England Wood Pellet contested the citations and fines to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission but now has agreed to implement measures to prevent, detect and suppress any potential fires and explosions. The company also has agreed to hire an independent third-party expert to evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective measures.

"Key to this agreement is the company's hiring of an independent third-party consultant who will analyze the corrective actions and inform OSHA of the company's progress," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "It's well known that sawdust can present explosion hazards in addition to fire hazards. New England Wood Pellet cannot afford to gamble with the possibility of additional fires and explosions. The lives of its workers depend on effective safeguards being in place and in use at all times."

Under the agreement, which was negotiated by the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston, the expert also will evaluate the sufficiency of the plant's process safety management systems. A report will then will be submitted to OSHA's Concord office.

"With this settlement, ongoing, corrective action by the company replaces potentially lengthy litigation. New England Wood Pellet is responsible for its employees' safety, and its enforceable commitment to take all necessary steps to prevent future conflagrations and catastrophic incidents, as promised in this agreement, is critical," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor for New England. "We encourage other employers to take similar steps to eliminate hazards and safeguard their workers in a broad, systemic and effective manner."

The case was litigated for the department by Senior Trial Attorney Constance B. Franklin.

Information on combustible dust hazards is available online at

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Concord office at 603-225-1629.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit
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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Detailed Look Into OSHA under U.S Presidents

A Detailed Look Into OSHA under U.S Presidents | Compliance and Safety Blog

From Comliance and Safety Blog an article on OSHA Fines unner each of the last presidents.

A Detailed Look Into OSHA under U.S Presidents November 24, 2012

Democrats and Republicans could not be more different in their fundamental views of government spending and regulation but are these views reflected in their administration of OSHA?

OSHA Fines Under U.S Presidents

Increasing maximum OSHA fines requires action from Congress which has been repeatedly blocked under the current Republican congress. However, that hasn’t stopped OSHA from finding other ways to increase fines under the leadership of Obama-appointed David Michaels, such as increasing minimum mandatory fines and increasing the window whereby an employer can be clasisfied as a ‘repeat offender.’  These changes have resulted in record years for OSHA fines, as evident in the charts below.

OSHA fines, often called a ‘hidden tax’ by critics, first exploded under George Bush Sr. They remained relatively stagnant under Clinton and George W., but have once again spiked under Obama due to the new set of guidelines that OSHA has established.

New OSHA Regulations by President

New OSHA regulations have come to a screeching hault at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration.  This is due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the ever increasing influence of business in politics.
Obama has created new regulations more than twice as quickly as George W., although it is incredibly slow when compared to the first 30 years of OSHA’s existence. Regulations were issued at the rate of 2.3/yr under the Republican Regan administration.

OSHA Budget by President

President Obama is often framed as a big spender, but does this narrative hold true for OSHA? It does indeed, with OSHA spending hitting record levels immediately after Obamas inauguration.  OSHA is bigger than ever before, both in terms of funding and in terms of revenue generated from fining businesses. This is great news for working class citizens but not quite as exciting for business owners.

OSHA under Republicans & Democrats

You may be surprised to learn that, over the past 25 years, with respect to budget and fines, OSHA has been about the same size under both Republicans and Democrats. While fines and budget were at all-time lows under Reagan, George Bush Sr.’s massive increase in OSHA penalties and George W. Bushes high annual OSHA budget helped to close the gap. Over Reagens 8 year term, OSHA issued an average of 32 million dollars in fines per year. Under George Bush Sr., OSHA issued an average of 164 million dollars per year, a staggering 5x increase. George Bush Jr. had also embraced Bill Clinton’s spending increases, pushing it to record high levels in 2001.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Combustible Dust Winter Alert - Increased Risk

Combustible Dust Winter Alert - Increased Risk


The risk of a dust explosion increases when low humidity levels, like those seen in winter months, make dust easy to disperse and ignite. In fact, industrial accident investigations by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that seven out of eight fatal combustible dust explosions from 1995 to 2009 occurred during cold winter months when these weather conditions were most prominent.
One of the two tragic sawmill incidents in British Columbia occurred in the middle of winter, the second occurred in early spring.
A number of changes can commonly occur in wood processing facilities as the weather becomes colder.
      * Control measures and clean up practices that rely on the use of water may not be suitable or effective
     * Openings such as bay doors and wall dampers may be closed up increasing the degree of enclosure and reducing natural ventilation or make up air
     * Ventilation may be reduced or shut down to conserve heat
     * Re-circulation of air from exhaust systems may also increase
     * Portable heating units potentially introduce additional ignition sources into workspaces
Going into the winter months it is important to maintain attention on controlling the risks associated with combustible dusts. Employers need to assess for any additional risks associated with the impact of the environment on dust accumulations and the methods used to control dust in the winter.

Also see:
BC wood dust explosive risk increases in winter: WorkSafeBC
Vancouver Sun
The US Chemical Safety board put out a similar warning in 2009, finding seven of eight fatal combustible dust explosions from 1995 to 2009 took place during ...