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