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.