Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are Spices Flammable?

Is Cinnamon Flammable? - Science - ChefSteps

Made from the dried bark of Cinnamomum verum, a tree indigenous to Sri Lanka, cinnamon's exotic perfume and subtle flavor come from its two major components: cinnamaldehyde and eugenol. These two chemicals are volatile, meaning they readily vaporize at temperatures comfortable to humans, which is in fact why cinnamon is so fragrant. But those same vapors are also highly combustible (indeed, combustion only happens in the presence of vapors), making cinnamon a highly flammable material under the right conditions.

Now a cloud of cinnamon dust isn’t the kind of thing most people would consider dangerous, but add enough heat and you’ll quickly have an expanding ball of fire known as a dust explosion. For dealing with this situation, we can only recommend a good pair of running shoes. In fact, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issues warnings about cinnamon explosions in food manufacturing plants. Here, we filmed cinnamon’s flammable properties at 5000 frames per second, but warning: you might not want to try this at home.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Grain Bin Hazards and Safety Precautions

From Westfield Insurance Grains of Knowledge blog, this post focuses on the hazards associated with grain bins, including key precautions that can be taken to reduce workers’ risks while performing duties in, and around, grain bins and grain dust.

Ag Safety: Grain Bin Hazards and Safety Precautions - Grains of Knowledge

Ag Safety: Grain Bin Hazards and Safety Precautions

This post is the first in a series on agricultural safety that will educate readers about the risks associated with various farming and agribusiness jobs, as well as offer helpful tips for reducing and preventing hazards at your family or business operation.

WFI-Grain-Bin1Being a part of the farming and agribusiness industry can be greatly rewarding. In the U.S., families and businesses supply essential produce and consumer goods, support economic growth and contribute to the legacy of American farming.

Members of the agriculture community are aware that certain jobs and farming duties can be more hazardous than others. From operating tractors, to filling and performing maintenance on grain bins, dangers on the worksite are real and should be kept top-of-mind when developing an effective safety program.

This week’s post focuses on the hazards associated with grain bins, including key precautions that can be taken to reduce workers’ risks while performing duties in, and around, grain bins and grain dust.

Grain Bin Hazards and Safety Precautions:
Grain bins are used in a variety of agribusiness operations, including grain elevators, feed mills and farms that grow crops like corn, soybeans and wheat. Workers work in and outside of the bins, loading and unloading the grain, as well as conducting maintenance on the equipment.

Below is a list of some of the most common and hazardous situations that can exist from working with grain bins.
  • Respiratory and skin hazards — Grain dust created by the grain into bins can affect people’s health in varying degrees. While some people may not experience a reaction, others can suffer from difficulty breathing, digestion and stomach problems, or skin irritations and rashes.
 To reduce and prevent allergic reactions to grain bin dust, employees should always wear a dust mask and employers should mandate that all workers on-site wear proper protective gear appropriate for the present condition. For example, if entering a moldy grain bin, workers should be equipped with a high efficiency filter for their respirator. Additionally, all fumigated bins ventilated for several hours.
  • Fire and explosion hazards — Grain dust is also extremely flammable and can be ignited easily by fire, sparks or hot bearings. Mixed with oxygen, the dust can also become highly explosive. 
Several methods can be used to reduce the possibility of a fire or explosion, such as not permitting smoking near the bins, never welding or grinding in a bin that contains grain, and performing routine maintenance checks to avoid machinery failure that causes flammable reactions.
  • Flowing Grain — When workers unload grain, the grain flows out of the bin from the top center, creating a funnel-shaped flow that can submerge a worker waist-deep within a matter of seconds. This can happen as a result of moving the grain too quickly, using larger storage facilities, year-round storage of grain or a lack of awareness of the dangers associated with flowing grain. If this occurs, workers can become entrapped in the grain and suffocate.
Entrapment can be avoided by the following: never enter a grain bin alone or while the unloading equipment is running, do not enter a grain bin with automatic unloading equipment without locking the control circuit, be extremely cautious when working with out-of-condition grain and always have more than two people onsite when working in an uncertain condition.
  • Collapsed Grain Bridge — Grain bridges occur when grain is moldy or during the winter months when it freezes, creating a hard crust on top of the bin. This thick crust can form over a hollow cavity within the bin, and if a worker attempts to walk across this “bridge,” they run the risk of it collapsing. If the grain bridge collapses, a worker is immediately submerged in the grain, trapped several feet below the point of entry. 
Grain bridges can be avoided by maintaining good conditions in the bin that prevent spoilage and bridging of the grain. If grain bridges occur, they look like inverted cones or funnels that appear after unloading. If you suspect a grain bridge exists, use a pole or weighted line to free it from a safe location, such as the bin roof hatch or an inside ladder. Do not walk directly across a grain bridge. 
  • Grain Wall Avalanche — If grain is in a bad condition or spoiled, it can crust together, lining the bin wall. Workers may attempt to break the pillar apart, and if it is loosened, it can create an avalanche that quickly covers the bottom of the bin and any workers inside.
The most obvious form of prevention is to properly manage the condition of the grain. If grain walls do form, anyone that enters the bin should use a secure body harness that can withstand up to 5,400 lbs. of stress. Workers should be lowered from the top of the bin, dislodging the grain from the top down.
Additional safety tips:
  • Install ladders inside and outside all bins.
  • Require all workers go through training for specific hazardous situations related to entering and working inside of grain bins.
  • Provide workers with adequate safety harnesses for entering a dangerous bin. If a hazardous situation is present, three workers should be present — one inside the bin and two outside for support.
  • Do not rely on a rope, chain or pipe ladder hanging from the roof.
  • When working with out-of-condition, moldy grain, do not work alone and always wear a respirator capable of filtering fine dust particles.
  • Air quality inside a bin or silo should be tested prior to entry to detect the presence of combustible and toxic gases, and to determine if there is sufficient oxygen.
  • If you should become trapped in a grain bin or silo, stay near the outer wall and keep moving.
  • Issue a permit each time a worker enters a bin or silo, certifying that all precautions have been implemented.
Grain Bin Safety Resources: 

What precautions have you implemented on your farm or at your agribusiness? We'd like to hear from our readers, and share any additional tips that could be used to help keep workers safe while working with grain and grain bins.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Best Engineering Practice in Biomass Industry

From our friends at Fauske, a good primer on developing a Risk Management Strategy.

Note: The biomass and wood pellet industry has certain built in hazards. They are making fuel after all!  Every time the product is moved or manipulated there will be combustible dust created. Ignition sources are inherent to the process.  

Proper risk assessment and inherently safe engineering and design from the start of the project are important to the safe operation and sustainability of these processes.

Based on extensive experience in this and similar industries we know that process primary ignition sources will be the dryers, grinders and hammermills, and the pellet mills. There will be secondary ignition sources from bearings, and mechanical parts, as well as human error and hot work.  There are many fire hazards in the biomass process.  As for explosion hazards, there are several points where there will be combustible dust clouds in sufficient concentration for deflagration such as the bins, hoppers, pellet cooler, dust collectors, storage bins and silos. Design and application of layered safety systems for each of these areas are required for safe operation.

Risk Assessment and Management is Key to Biomass Process Safety.

Developing Good Engineering Practice in Biomass Industry

Biomass Background - Forest, Sawmill and Agricultural Perspective
Biomass energy is a suggested replacement for fossil fuel combustion and is producedWood pellets on fireby combusting sustainable biomass materials such as wood and agricultural residues. An aggressively growing industry, biomass encompasses many combinations of production and storage, all with potenially hazardous interactions.  Biomass generally includes forest, sawmill and agricultural residue. When processed into pellets, the moisture content is lowered and biomass is rendered logistically and economically suitable for transportation and for use as fuel in power generation and steam production plants. Biomass is an attractive fuel becausethe carbon dioxide emitted from burning biomass does not increase total atmospheric carbon dioxide if done on a sustainable basis. For this reason, many European utilities and private consumers are considering the change from coal-based power to biomass fueled-plants.

Because the biomass and pellet industry is primarily wood based, there are ongoing concerns about the safe processing and operation of biomass, whether during the pelletizing or fuel burning processes.

How Regulations are Driving Biomass Safety
In the US, different organizations have different responses to the biomass industry. At a recent conference, leaders from the United States Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) statedthat the biomass industry is a young industry. As such, it is unlike developed industries (the chemical industry) in that the hazards of production are not well defined and that there are no standard practices for good engineering or for safety.  In spite of such concerns, the USDA recently committed to support the Biomass Power Association and other related organizations by stating, "Wood-to-energy efforts are a part of our 'all of the above' energy strategy. Appropriately scaled wood energy facilities also support our efforts to remove hazardous fuels and reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfires."

In Europe, The Climate and Energy Package is driving consumers and utilities to use more sustainable fuels (the 20,20,20 Targets). In the UK, new solid biomass sustainability standards are set to go into effect in 2015. Once the standards take effect, the biomass industry will be required to show its fuel is sustainable to receive financial support, per the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change.

WorkSafeBC (the enforcing and educational agency for British Columbia's Occupational Health and Safety Regulation bureau) publishes Notice of Incident (NI) reports to help prevent similar accidents in the workplace.  A recent focus has been lumber yards with relation to fumes associated with storage.  In addition, "Wood Dust in Sawmills: Compilation of Industry Best Practices" published in May 2012 emphasizes the need for risk assessment and audit for preventing and mitigating the potential for combustible dust explosions via a control program as well as the need for overall fire prevention assessments.

Tim Cullina, Senior Consulting Engineer at Fauske & Associates, LLC (FAI) adds, "It's all about the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) when it comes to risk assessment.  What does the building department say? NFPA may write a code, OSHA may have mandates, but what does your insurance company say about what you need to have? What is really going to protect your people and your facility?"

New Developments in Biomass
New processes are being developed to make Biomass more efficient. Specifically, companies in the US are working on a process called "torrefaction", a mild form of pyrolysis by which pellets are upgraded to have a higher quality energy and carbon carrier to augment coal.  According to Shahab Sokhansanj at Biomass Magazine, "Torrefaction following pelletization currently appears to be a promising strategy to obtain torrefied wood pellets which are transportable with improved durability, reduced moisture content and higher energy value."  While these new technologies are promising, they also raise new questions about how to safely process, transport, and burn fuels.

With all this focus and growth in the biomass industry, it is critical that managers are watching for risk management strategies to reduce the hazards associated with handling materials.

Risk Management is Key to New Biomass Technologies
Per Ashok Dastidar, PhD, MBA, Vice President, Dust & Flammability Testing and Consulting Services for FAI,  "Combustible particulates in other industries tend to be addressed using cookie cutter approaches, often those mandated by OSHA.  Using a generic risk based approach for biomass can be expensive and end up being a hybrid of other programs designed more for combustible dusts, for example. By taking a risk approach, you can have a custom designed risk safety engineering strategy."

The benefits of a comprehensive risk management strategy for biomass are:
  • Understand and address hazards that pose the highest level of risk to your process facility
  • Ensure compliance with relevant national, local and industry standards
  • Implement best engineering practices
  • Reduce overall level of risk
  • Increase productivity and employee morale
  • Make organization more competitive
  • Decrease insurance premiums
A comprehensive risk management strategy can include:

•  On-Site Hazard Assessment
•  Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) - Required per NFPA 652, NFPA 654, NFPA 664 and NFPA 484
•  OSHA Combustible Dust NEP Compliance Support
•  Training
•  Policy Development and Implementation

•  Satisfy OSHA PSM Requirements
•  Facilitate, Revalidate, Re-do PHAs
•  Audit/Review PHAs
•  Process, Equipment, Management of Change (MOC)
•  Combustible Dust Operations

•  Flammability (Gas/Vapors)
•  Combustible Dust
•  Reactive Chemicals

•  Fire and Explosion Hazards
•  Vessel Overpressure Scenarios
•  Chemical Reactivity Hazards
•  Chemical Releases
•  Vapor Cloud Dispersion

•  Develop or Review Process Safety Programs
•  Support Kilo Lab, Pilot Plant, Medium Scale and Commercial Scale Plants
•  Auditing, Reporting, Documentation
•  Identify and Prioritize Safety Gaps
•  Consulting for Management of Change (MOC) Impact
•  Combustible Dust Program Development

Fauske & Associates, LLC (FAI) offers a complete range of Risk Management Services including those mentioned above.  For 34 years, FAI has been a leader in the process safety engineering needs of the nuclear, chemical and industrial industries.  Our full-service laboratory provides analysis of thermal hazards in support of our consulting services. For more information, please contact Jeff Griffin,, 630-887-5278.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Do Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis Tip: Why Do Root Cause Analysis?

From Taproot Blog, and Systems Improvements, Inc.

Have you thought about why you do root cause analysis? What is your purpose? I ask because many people go through the motions of root cause analysis without asking this essential question.
For most people, the purpose of root cause analysis is to learn to stop major accidents by finding the root causes of accidents and fixing them. Obviously, we must analyze the root causes of fatalities and serious injuries. But waiting for a serious accident to prevent a fatality or serious injury is like shutting the barn door after the cow has escaped.

Instead of waiting for a major accident, we need to learn from smaller incidents that warn us about a big accident just around the corner. Thus, root cause analysis of these significant warning events is a great idea.

The same philosophy applies to other types of adverse events that you want to prevent. Quality issues, equipment failures, production upsets, or environmental releases. You want to use root cause analysis to learn from the minor events to prevent the major ones.

This seems obvious. But why do so many companies seem to wait to learn from major accidents? And why do so many others waste tremendous time and money investigating incidents that don’t have the potential to cause a serious loss? Read on for ideas…

Many companies seem to wait for big accidents before they decide to make serious change to the way they manage safety. They think they are doing everything needed to be safe. They may even have evidence (like decreasing lost time injury/medical treatment rates) that they are improving. But, when a major accident happens, the investigation reveals multiple opportunities that were missed before the major accident to have learned from minor incidents. That makes me wonder … Why aren’t they learning?

I’ve seen eight reasons why major companies to fail to learn. These reasons can occur separately or rolled up together as a “culture issue.” They include:
Near-Misses Not Reported
If you don’t find out about small problems, you will wait until big problems happen to react. Often people don’t report near-misses because they are unofficially discouraged to do so. This can include being punished for self-reporting a mistake or being assigned to fix a problem when it is reported. Even the failure to act when a problem is reported can be seen as demotivating.
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Hazards Not Recognized
Another reason that near-misses/hazards are not reported (and therefore not learned from) is that they aren’t even recognized as a reportable problem. I remember an operator explaining that he didn’t see an overflow of a diesel fuel tank as a near-miss, rather, he saw it as a “big mess.” No report means that no one learned until the diesel caught fire after a subsequent spill (a big accident).
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Shortcuts Become a Way of Life (standards not enforced)
This is sometimes called the “normalization of deviation.” If shortcuts (breaking the rules) become normal, people won’t see shortcuts as reportable near-misses. Thus, the bad habits continue until a big accident occurs.
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Process Safety Not Understood
We’ve built a whole course around this cause of big accidents (The 2-Day Best Practices for Reducing Serious Injuries & Fatalities Using TapRooT® Course). When management doesn’t understand the keys to process safety, they reward the wrong management behavior only to suffer the consequences later.
Ineffective Root Cause Analysis
If a problem is reported but is inadequately analyzed, odds are that the corrective actions won’t stop the problem’s recurrence. This leaves the door open to future big accidents.
Inadequate Corrective Actions
I’ve seen it before … Good root cause analysis and poor corrective action. That’s why we wrote the Corrective Action Helper® module for the TapRooT® Software. Do you use it?

Corrective Actions Not Implemented
Yes. People do propose good corrective actions only to see them languish – never to be implemented. And the incidents continue to repeat until a big accident happens.
Trends Not Identified

If you aren’t solving problems, the evidence should be in the incident statistics. But you will only see it if you use advanced trending tools. We teach these once a year at the pre-Summit 2-Day Advanced Trending Techniques Course.
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Another problem that I’ve seen is companies overreacting. Instead of ignoring problems (waiting for the big accident), they become hyperactive. They try to prevent even minor incidents that never could become fatalities or serious injuries. I call this the “Investigating Paper Cuts” syndrome.

Why is overreacting bad? Because you waste resources trying to prevent problems that aren’t worth preventing. This usually leads to a backlog of corrective actions, many of which have very little return on investment potential. Plus you risk losing the few critical improve-ments that are worthwhile in “the sea of backlog.” Thus, an improvement program that isn’t properly focused can be a problem.

You need to truly understand the risks presented by your facility and focus your safety program on the industrial and process safety efforts that could prevent fatalities and serious injuries. Don’t overlook problems or make the mistake of trying to prevent every minor issue. Focus proactively on your major risks and reactively on incidents that could have become major accidents. Leave the rest to trending.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Benjamin Franklin

Friday, November 15, 2013

Improperly grounded vacuum ignites combustible dust explosion

Static charge caused explosion in Woburn Tuesday - Woburn, MA - Woburn Advocate

An explosion Tuesday that critically injured a worker in East Woburn was caused by an electrical charge that triggered a dust explosion, State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, Woburn Interim Director of Fire and Emergency Services Robert DiPoli, and Woburn Police Chief Robert Ferullo, Jr. said in a joint statement released today.

An employee was using an improperly grounded vacuum to clean machinery when a build-up of static charge inside the vacuum ignited the dust, causing an explosion and subsequent small fire, officials said.

One man was critically injured and airlifted to a Boston hospital by MedFlight shortly after the first emergency call came in at 12:27 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5. A worker from a neighboring company attempting to help the man suffered minor injuries, and a police officer was also treated as a precaution.

Powderpart uses metal powders and a 3-D printing process that involves lasers during production, according to the release.
A representative from Powderpart did not want to comment on the incident.

The origin and cause investigation was jointly conducted by members of the Woburn Fire Department, detectives from the Woburn Police Department, State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The regional Hazmat team, State Police Detectives from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, State Police Crime Scene Services, Department of Fire Services Code Compliance officers, representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, and the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration also responded to the scene.

Read more: Static charge caused explosion in Woburn Tuesday - Woburn, MA - Woburn Advocate
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Managing Combustible Dust & Safety Concerns in Biomass/Wood Pellet Industry

Managing Combustible Dust and Safety Concerns in Biomass/Wood Pellet Industry

By Jeff Griffin, Fauske and Associates, LLC

I had the chance to go the USIPA (US Industrial Pellet) conference this week in Miami. Aside from being a great location for a show, it was fascinating to hear how the wood pellet/biomass industry has been growing in the USA and Europe and to hear how companies are ramping up to increase production. Though the Biomass industry is relatively new, this year they had production of 10 MT alone and world demand for wood pellets is supposed to increase more than threefold by 2030.(1) Much of the production to meet this need will be in the US and Canada.

With such rapid growth, there are significant concerns about safety, both for workers and for the processes itself. Several of the speakers referenced how wood pellet production is a ‘new’ art. Unlike the Chemical industry, which has well defined processes and hazard mitigation, the pellet industry is still developing best practices for processing and production of their material. Coming from an engineering firm that specializes in process safety, this caught my attention.

The chemical industry had a series of explosions in the 1960’s that drove innovation to appropriately test new materials and scale up production in a safe way. Fauske and Associates, LLC was one of the leaders of that process, and we developed technology to address process-scale-up concerns. While we continue to be a leader in that field – we have spent the last several years responding to the OSHA Combustible Dust NEP (2) by characterizing the explosive nature of materials through experimentation and providing on-site support to clients with combustible dust issues.

The wood pellet/biomass industry has not been immune to combustible dust concerns. There have been several events in recent years; some recent examples are listed below:

-          2009 – Geneva Wood Fuels LLC for six alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards following an August 2009 explosion at the wood pellet manufacturing plant in Strong, Maine (3)
-          2011 – Dust Explosion at Georgia Biomass due to overheated bearing (4)
-          2012 – BC Dust explosion for beetle-dried wood (5)
-          2013 – OSHA Cites New England wood pellet

Like the chemical industry in the 60’s, the pellet industry is growing rapidly, and with that growth comes safety concerns. The raw materials going into the pellet making process needs to be well understood, and the production process needs to be appropriately assessed to ensure that risks are identified and controlled. Characterizing the hazards inherent to the raw materials and having expert support in assessing the risks associated with the process is essential for developing a sound safety program for pellet facilities.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides guidance for handling combustible dusts.  Standards like NFPA 664 guides safe dust handling in wood processing facilities. In addition, also has a great summary of standards and mitigation controls. (6) Standards like NFPA 68 guide venting, and 654 guide prevention of fire and dust explosions. A new code, NFPA 652, (7) is currently in development and will be the overarching standard for managing combustible dust. While currently in a draft form, this code will require that facilities handling combustible dust have the following at a minimum:

-          Test data is needed for the materials being processed
-          A Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) needs to be conducted to ensure
-          A dust management program needs to be developed and instituted

Pelletized fuels in a new and exciting area in the Biomass industry that is expanding rapidly.  Rapid growth often coincides with modifying or creating new ways to increase output of existing process equipment to keep up with demand.  These changes in processing will raise new questions about safety that will need to be addressed for the industry to succeed.  Understand the risks present in processing their materials so they can safely scale-up their processes.

Fauske & Associates, LLC is a Chicago-based process safety engineering firm specializing in testing and consulting on material hazards. This includes combustible dust testing and on-site assessments per NFPA Standards.   We have worked with several pellet companies to provide both testing and consulting services.

For more information, please contact Jeff Griffin, Fauske & Associates, LLC, at, or 630-887-5278. WWW.FAUSKE.COM

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remembering Trevor Kletz

Published on Nov 5, 2013
CSB video excerpts from Dr. Trevor Kletz, a world renowned expert in chemical process safety, who died October 31, 2013.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Conversion Technology engineers to wear FRC when conducting Combustible Dust Hazard Analysis

CTI EHS Blog: Conversion Technology engineers to wear FRC when conducting Combustible Dust Hazard Analysis

From Brian Edwards

Conversion Technology engineers to wear FRC when conducting Combustible Dust Hazard Analysis

Flame resistant clothing (FRC) has been used for years in a number of industries to protect workers from flash fires, arc flash, embers, molten metal, and other potential sources of ignition to clothing.  The reason FRC is so important is that many fatalities have occurred because a worker's clothing has caught on fire, exposing him/her to burning heat for a much longer time than would have occurred during the initial event (e.g. arc flash, vapor flash fire).

When looking at burn victims, there is a "magic" number - well, more accurately, a statistically relevant number - that predicts if the victim has a better chance of surviving ... or dying.  This number is 50%.  Meaning, when the percent of a person's body with 2nd or 3rd degree burns exceeds 50%, it is more likely that he will not survive.  FRC is extremely valuable in minimizing the percentage of 2nd/3rd degree burns for a person exposed to a flash fire or other short duration thermal exposure (less than 3-4 seconds). It does this not by providing insulation, rather, FRC resists catching on fire and becoming a source of burns itself.

As I mentioned earlier, a number of industries have adopted FRC as standard issue clothing - think petroleum refining and steel mills. One area where the need for FRC has become more apparent is for workers potentially exposed to combustible dust flash fires.

When combustible dust is suspended in air in sufficient concentrations, and there is a source of ignition, a flash fire very similar to that of a vapor fire can occur. Workers in the vicinity can be exposed to both the initial event, but they also stand the risk of having their clothing ignite.  Because of this, NFPA 654 - Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids - now details the need for considering FRC as part of the hazard analysis conducted for an industrial plant where combustible dust is present.

At Conversion Technology, Inc. (CTI), our safety and environmental engineers have long wore FRC when it was required by our client's facility. However, we have noticed that a large percentage of industrial facilities with potential combustible dust hazards have not considered FRC in their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) hazard assessment. Therefore, we have decided that regardless of the Client's requirements, we will require all engineers conducting combustible dust hazard assessments to wear FRC while on site.

Not all facilities who process and handle combustible dust will need to require FRC.  Part of CTI's scope of work while conducting a combustible dust hazard assessment is to determine whether or not FRC is needed. However, until we have made that determination, our engineers will not know if they will be walking into an area where they are potential exposed to a dust fire hazard.  This unknown is why we have made this decision.

We hope that all facilities that handle and process combustible dust will make the effort to determine if workers are potential exposed to combustible dust fire and explosion hazards. Conversion Technology is available to help those that need assistance in making this determination. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Combustible Dust Explosions Common to Baghouses

From our friends at BS&B and

Introduction to Combustible Dust Explosions Common to Baghouses

Introduction to Combustible Dust Explosions Common to Baghouses

Guest Post By Bevin Sequeira
BS&B Safety Systems (Asia Pacific) Pte Ltd. 

Introduction to Dust Explosions

A Dust Explosion is the fast combustion of dust particles suspended in the air in an enclosed location. Coal dust explosions are a frequent hazard in underground coal mines, but dust explosions can occur where any powdered combustible material is present in an enclosed atmosphere or, in general, in high enough concentrations of dispersed combustible particles in atmosphere.

Dust Explosion at West Pharmaceutical Services

Dust explosion at West Pharmaceutical Services, North Carolina took the lives of 6 people in 2003.

Dust explosions can lead to loss of life, injury, damage property and environmental damage as well as consequential damage such as business interruption losses.

Dust explosions involve most commonly “dust”, i.e. fine material. This can be the product being handled or it can be produced as the result of the processing. However, in many cases fine dust is present in material that is otherwise too coarse to pose a dust explosion hazard, either as part of the product or generated by attrition during handling or transport. Therefore, while replacing a fine material by a granular one (such as pellets or flakes) will reduce the dust explosion hazards, this may not be sufficient to eliminate the hazards. Similarly, a user of a granular material may process it to a particle size that introduces dust explosion hazards.

Many dust explosions that occur in process plants are relatively small, leading to limited damage. However, under the right circumstances, even small explosions can escalate into major incidents. This is most commonly the case when secondary dust explosions happen. The typical scenario is that a small “primary” explosion raises a dust cloud, often from dust deposited over time on plant surfaces, and ignites the resulting dust cloud. This “secondary” explosion takes place where often people are present, placing them in immediate danger. Secondary dust explosions can form a chain reaction that can run through a facility as long as fuel is present, leading to widespread devastation.

Conditions for Dust Explosion

Dust Explosion Pentagon
There are five necessary conditions for a dust explosion or deflagration:
1. Presence of Combustible Dust
2. Dust suspended in the air at a high concentration
3. There is an Oxidant (typically atmospheric oxygen)
4. There is an Ignition source ( Either Flames & hot surfaces, Spontaneous Ignition, Friction sparks, Static Electricity, Electrical Equipment’s, etc.)
5. Confinement (enclosed location)

Many materials which are commonly known to oxidize can generate a dust explosion, such as coal, sawdust. The dust can arise from activities such as transporting grain and indeed grain silos do regularly have explosions. Mining of coal leads to coal dust and flour mills likewise have large amounts of flour dust as a result of milling. A gigantic explosion of flour dust destroyed a mill in Minnesota on May 2nd, 1878, killing 18 workers at the Washburn A Mill.

To support combustion, the dust must also consist of very small particles with a high surface area to volume ratio, thereby making the collective or combined surface area of all the particles very large in comparison to a dust of larger particles. Dust is defined as powders with particles less than about 500 microns in diameter, but finer dust will present a much greater hazard than coarse particles by virtue of the larger total surface area of all the particles.

Sources of Ignition

There are many sources of ignition and a naked flame need not be the only one: over one half of the dust explosions were from non-flame sources. Common sources of ignition include electrostatic discharge friction arcing from machinery or other equipment or hot surfaces such as overheated bearings. However it is often difficult to determine the exact source of ignition post-explosion. When a source cannot be found, it will often be cited as static electricity. Static charges can occur by friction at the surfaces of particles as they move against one another, and build up to levels leading to a sudden discharge.

Combustible Dust Concentrations:

As with gases, dust is combustible with certain concentration parameters. These parameters vary widely across the spectrum. Highly combustible dust can form a flammable mixture with less than 15 g/m3.

Mechanism of dust explosions:

Imperial Sugar Explosion- Wentoworth Georgia
Imperial Sugar Explosion: Wentworth, GA
17 February 2008: 14 Fatalities

Dusts have a very large surface area compared to their mass. Since burning can only occur at the surface of a solid or liquid, where it can react with oxygen, this causes dusts to be much more flammable than bulk materials. For example, a 1 kg sphere of a material with a density of 1g/cm3 would be about 27 cm across and have a surface area of 0.3 m2. However, if it was broken up into spherical dust particles 50┬Ám in diameter (about the size of flour particles) it would have a surface area of 60 m² This greatly increased surface area allows the material to burn much faster, and the extremely small mass of each particle allows it to catch on fire with much less energy than the bulk material, as there is no heat loss to conduction within the material. When this mixture of fuel and air is ignited, especially in a confined space such as a warehouse or silo, a significant increase in pressure is created, often more than sufficient to demolish the structure.

Even materials that are traditionally thought of as non-flammable, such as aluminium, or slow burning, such as wood, can produce a powerful explosion when finely divided, and can be ignited by even a small spark.

Combustible Dust Explosions Since Imperial Sugar Incident


Dust explosions may be classified as being either primary or secondary in nature.
Primary dust explosions: occur inside process plant or similar enclosures and are generally controlled by pressure relief through purpose-built ducting to atmosphere.

Secondary dust explosions: are the result of dust accumulation inside the factory being disturbed and ignited by the primary explosion, resulting in a much more dangerous uncontrolled explosion inside the workplace.
Historically, fatalities from dust explosions have largely been the result of secondary dust explosions.

Best engineering control measures which can be found in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Combustible Dust Standards include:

• Oxidant Concentration Reduction
Deflagration venting
• Deflagration pressure containment
Deflagration suppression
Deflagration venting through a dust retention and flame-arresting devices
Spark Detection & Extinguishing Systems

Dust Explosions - Bucket Elevator Explosion

 Explosive Materials:
The following materials are prone to dust explosions.
• Coal
• Fertilizer
• Cosmetics
• Pesticides
• Plastic & plastic resins
• Wood
• Charcoal
• Detergents
• Foodstuffs (sugar, flour, milk powder, etc.)
• Ore dusts
• Metal dusts
• Graphite
• Dry industrial chemicals
• Pigments
• Cellulose

Industrial Equipment:
Typical industrial equipment’s that require explosion protection.
• Dust Collectors
• Dryers
• Cyclones
• Crushers
• Grinders
• Silos
• Pulverisers
• Conveyors
• Conveyor ducts
• Screw conveyors
• Bucket Elevators
• Furnaces
• Hoppers
• Bins


Many reported dust explosions have originated in common powder and bulk solids processing equipment such as dust collectors, dryers, grinders/pulverisers, and blenders. Electrostatic discharges are frequently cited as the ignition source for dust collector explosions, whereas particulate overheating is the most common ignition source in dryer explosions, and friction/impact heating associated with tramp metal or misaligned parts is probably the most frequent ignition source in grinder/pulveriser explosions.

Dust explosions are often exacerbated by propagation through ducting between process equipment, frequently via dust collector pickup and return ducting. Moe widespread use of effective deflagration isolation devices in such ducting would clearly be beneficial in mitigating the damage and injuries from these propagating dust explosions. (See article Dust Collector Fire and Explosion Highlights Need for Combustible Dust Considerations In System Designs)

Secondary dust explosions in processing buildings probably cause the largest numbers of dust explosion fatalities and injuries. One crucial aspect of secondary dust explosion prevention and mitigation is greater awareness of good housekeeping and maintenance practices to prevent particulate leakage from equipment and subsequent accumulations of dust deposits in large areas of the buildings.

About the Author

About the Author

Bevin Sequeira holds a B.E. (Mechanical) degree & a MBA (Marketing) specializing in business development & enhancement of virgin markets all over the globe. With over two decades of international working experience in the industry, Bevin's knowledge of the industry spans various sectors like Iron & Steel, Foundry, Chemicals & Fertilizer, Power, Food, Pharma, etc.  He is currently serving as Regional Sales Manager at" target="_blank">BS&B Safety Systems

(Asia Pacific) Pte Ltd. specialising in Combustible Dust Explosion Protection Systems & Risk Management. In his spare time, Bevin likes to read, travel, socialise & collaborate with business houses for M&A, Management Consultancy, etc.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Top Ten Business Safety Tips from Loss Prevention Expert

Top Ten Business Safety Tips from Gowrie Group's Safety and Loss Prevention Expert - Press Release - Digital Journal

(PRWEB) September 30, 2013
Gowrie Group, one of the nation's Top 100 independent insurance agencies, provides timely information on how to best protect businesses and organizations from losses. Our safety team focuses on helping clients decrease their liabilities and exposures to fines, lawsuits, negative press, and employee complaints. Gowrie's Top 10 series offer practical, smart advice to help build safer workplaces and improve OSHA standards.

Top Ten Gowrie Group Safety & Loss Prevention Tips:

#1 Fire Extinguishers. Fire extinguishers must be easily accessible, with a clearance of 18" on both sides and 36" in front of the extinguisher. OSHA can fine up to $7,000 for a blocked extinguisher. For more, see OSHA #1910.175

#2 Respirators. If you have been issued a respirator, remember that it should be kept in a sealed container when it is not in use. You must thoroughly clean your respirator after each use. Do not share your respirator with anyone. For more see OSHA #1910.134

#3 Extension Cords. Extension cords are for temporary use, which means that they should be unplugged and put away at the end of every shift. They should never be run through doorways, taped to walls, or run behind desks. For more see OSHA #1910.334

#4 Combustible Dust. The OSHA Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program means that you have a greater likelihood of being inspected for dust compliance. A simple way to measure dust accumulation: place an office paperclip on top of a surface – electrical outlets, panels, fixtures – to check that the dust does not cover the paperclip; if it does, you are in violation. Make sure that your facility is clean and dust-free. For more see OSHA #Combustible Dust, an Explosion Hazard.

#5 Stretching. Stretching during the workday is essential to both productivity and wellness, even when workstations are correct and ergonomically optimized. High repetition tasks or jobs that require long periods of static posture may require several, short rest breaks (micro breaks or rest pauses). During these breaks users should be encouraged to stand, stretch, and move around. This provides rest and allows the muscles enough time to recover. For more see OSHA’s recommendations for Ergonomic Computer Workstations.

#6 Flammable Products. Never put flammable products (solvents, some cleaners, gasoline, etc.) into spray bottles. The fumes and vapors from these types of products cannot be seen, but they are extremely flammable. When they are atomized, the possibility of explosion greatly increases. For more see OSHA # 1910.106

#7 Owner’s Manual. Always read the Owner’s Manual before using a new piece of equipment. The manual not only provides directions on use, but also provides safety tips and maintenance recommendations.

#8 Filing Cabinets. Remember to open only one drawer of a filing cabinet at a time. When two drawers are open, the cabinet is likely to tip over. An open drawer must be attended to at all times. When you are finished, remember to close the drawer completely.

#9 Personal Protective Equipment. It is necessary to wear safety glass when operating machinery and tools, working with hazardous materials, or doing any activity where there may be danger to your eye. A simple pair of glasses has been proven to protect your eyesight in these settings. Goggles, the next step up, offer slightly more protection from splashes, dust, or flying chips. For more see OSHA #1910.133

#10 Unplugging Electrical Devices. When unplugging tools, lighting, office equipment, or any other electrical devices, remember to use the plug rather than tug on the cord. The action of tugging on the cord can cause damage to the wires, resulting in fire or malfunction of the equipment. For more see OSHA # 1910.334

Gowrie's Safety & Loss Prevention insights are created by Kellie Crete. Kellie manages Gowrie Group's Safety & Loss Prevention practice area and has more than 25 years of experience in safety and loss control, and specializes in advising the marine industry and other niche segments of the commercial marketplace. Kellie is an OSHA authorized instructor.

Gowrie Group. Always on Watch. As one of the nation's Top 100 independent insurance agencies, Gowrie Group provides total risk management services to individuals and businesses with complex insurance needs. Gowrie Group offers comprehensive insurance solutions matched with trusted advice and a commitment to service excellence. Gowrie’s portfolio of offerings includes commercial, home/auto, equine, and yacht insurance, as well as employee benefits solutions. The company's 140+ professionals service clients across the US from offices in Westbrook CT, Darien CT, North Kingstown RI, and Newport RI. or 800.262.8911.