Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grain Dust Explosion

Dust Explosion Injures 4

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 10:20am
FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press 

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Flames from welding equipment touched off a grain-dust explosion at a Nestlé Purina plant in Flagstaff Sunday, burning two workers severely and leaving two others with less serious burns, authorities said.

The four contractors were welding about 5 p.m. on the fifth floor of the complex's seven-story grain elevator when their torches sparked grain dust and set off the blast, Flagstaff Fire Department Capt. Bill Morse said.

One man was severely burned and taken by air ambulance to the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, and another man with severe burns was transported by ground ambulance to the same center, Morse said.

A third man suffered moderate burns and was taken to the Flagstaff Medical Center, while another man with less serious burns was treated and released from the center, Morse said.

The explosion did not produce a long-lasting fire but it blew out metal doors at the front of the grain elevator, said Morse. He said he did not know the name of the contracting company for which the men worked.

Other parts of the Nestlé Purina complex were unaffected by the explosion, Morse said.

On weekends, production is halted in the complex's grain elevator so workers can carry out  maintenance projects, he said.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration website says grain dust is the main source of fuel for explosions in grain handling.

Monday, September 15, 2014

OSHA’s Increased Enforcement of Facilities with Combustible Dusts Hazards | The National Law Review

OSHA’s Increased Enforcement of Facilities with Combustible Dusts Hazards

Monday, September 8, 2014

CSB Investigation Warns of Dust Explosion Risk at Recycling Facilities

VIDEO: CSB Investigation Warns of Dust Explosion Risk at Recycling Facilities from Waste Management World

VIDEO: CSB Investigation Warns of Dust Explosion Risk at Recycling Facilities

VIDEO: CSB Investigation Warns of Dust Explosion Risk at Recycling Facilities

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released its final report, safety recommendations and accompanying safety video into a fatal combustible dust explosion at the AL Solutions metal recycling facility in New Cumberland, West Virginia.

As presented to the Board for a vote at a public meeting in Charleston, the report reiterates a recommendation that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promulgate a general industry combustible dust standard, which CSB said it has been calling for since its 2006 study on these preventable accidents.

The December 9, 2010 accident at the AL Solutions metal recycling facility, which milled and processed scrap titanium and zirconium metal, killed three employees and injured a contractor.
The CSB said that the incident is one of nine serious combustible dust incidents investigated by the CSB since 2003. These explosions and fires caused 36 deaths and 128 injuries.

According to the CSB’s report, most solid organic materials, as well as many metals, will explode if the particles are small enough, and they are dispersed in a sufficient concentration within a confined area, near an ignition source.

The report emphasised to industry that even seemingly small amounts of accumulated combustible dust can cause catastrophic damage.

The CSB investigation determined that AL Solutions experienced a history of fatal dust fires and explosions.

A newly developed CSB safety video entitled ‘Combustible Dust: Solutions Delayed’ details the process of milling and blending metal powder at the facility which was then pressed into dense disk called ‘compacts’.

“The CSB learned that the AL Solutions facility had fatal fires and explosions involving metal dust in 1995 and 2006 in addition to the 2010 explosion. Also, from 1993 until the accident in 2010, there were at least seven fires that required responses from the local fire department,” explained investigator Mark Wingard.

Around 1:20 pm on 9 December 2010, CSB said that a spark or hot-spot from the blender likely ignited the zirconium powder inside. The resulting flash fire lofted the metal dust particles in the blender, forming a burning metal dust cloud.

The cloud ignited other combustible dust within the production building, causing a secondary explosion that ripped through the plant, killing three workers and injuring a contract employee.

“Preventable combustible dust explosions continue to occur, causing worker deaths and injuries. The CSB believes it is imperative for OSHA to  issue a comprehensive combustible dust standard for general industry with clear control requirements to prevent dust fires and explosions,” commented chairperson Rafael Moure-Eras.

In presenting the findings of the case study, CSB’s lead investigator, Johnnie Banks, said: “As the metals were broken down during milling, the risk of a metal dust fire or explosion increased as the metal particles decreased in size.

“At AL Solutions a metal blender used to process zirconium was having mechanical problems that had not been adequately repaired. As a result, the blender was producing heat or sparks due to metal-to-metal contact.”

Investigator Wingard added: “The National Fire Protection Association Standard for Combustible Metals, called NFPA 484, recommends specific practices for controlling metal dust, but AL Solutions did not voluntarily follow those guidelines, and there are no federal OSHA standards to enforce similar requirements.

“In its 2006 Combustible Dust Hazard Study, the CSB recommended that OSHA issue a combustible dust standard for general industry based on the current NFPA guidelines.”

The CSB’s report and video encourage industry to take action to prevent combustible dust incidents.  In July 2013, the CSB identified its 2006 recommendation to develop a combustible dust standard as the first issue in its ‘Most Wanted Chemical Safety Improvement’ outreach program.

According to Moure-Eraso, had a national standard for combustible dust been in place in 2006 – and if industry had followed the requirements – many of the severe dust incidents that followed, including AL Solutions, may have been prevented.

“The time is now for OSHA to take action to prevent these tragic accidents,” he urged.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
More on this story and accompanying video can be seen in WMW’s weekly newscast below.

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Fire Detection: Tracking the Source
For waste and recycling facilities, fire is a huge danger. Detecting fire hazards before a fire breaks out, and quickly fighting the potential source of fire in a targeted manner can potentially save millions in revenue. Fire protection systems which use infrared thermography can offer significant advantages. By Dr Jörg Lantzsch.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Industry-led Manufacturers Advisory Group seeks to reduce Combustible Dust Explosions

Group seeks to reduce explosions

Industry-led Manufacturers Advisory Group (MAG) has the goal of providing the industry with a better understanding of (and improved ability to manage the risks created by) combustible wood dust.

by Treena Hein | Jun 2014

As a result of BC Safety Authority (BCSA)’s investigations into the Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills sawmill explosions in 2012, it issued a safety order in 2013 to over 400 wood processing facilities in B.C. that may have equipment installed in locations deemed hazardous because of the potential presence of combustible dust.

As a result of BC Safety Authority (BCSA)’s investigations into the Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills sawmill explosions in 2012, it issued a safety order in 2013 to over 400 wood processing facilities in B.C. that may have equipment installed in locations deemed hazardous because of the potential presence of combustible dust. 

June 10, 2014 - The British Columbia forestry sector saw two dust explosions at sawmills in 2012, and in each explosion, two people were killed and others were injured. These terrible events spurred the creation of an industry-led Manufacturers Advisory Group (MAG), which has the goal of  providing the industry with a better understanding of (and improved ability to manage the risks created by) combustible wood dust.

The MAG task force created an ‘auditable standard’ that can be used to provide independent assurance of mill safety, explains James Gorman, president and CEO of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI). A mill’s equipment, systems and processes are audited from a wood dust mitigation and control perspective – with input from employees, supervisors, management and others on site. The physical scope of the audit extends from raw material handling areas through to loading and shipping. It also includes the development of action plans and follow-up.

Early this year, B.C. government Minister Shirley Bond (Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour) warned sawmill owners that they must comply with new dust control regulations or they will face consequences. The regulations (which the MAG auditable standard tool helps companies comply with) require that there be less than 1/8 inch of dust on no more than five per cent of any given work area.

The Minister’s actions were in response to a WorksafeBC report on dust safety in sawmills issued in February. Between November 2013 and January 2014, WorksafeBC inspected 144 mills and found that only 83 of them were in compliance with regulations at the time of inspection. A new round of inspections commenced in April.

Gorman notes that companies have had the MAG audit tool available to them since January to measure their own performance relative to dust control before a WorkSafeBC inspector arrives. However, sign-up for the tool has been poor so far: only 55 of 144 sawmills have signed up, and
those 55 are all MAG members.

Gorman does not speculate as to why some companies have not yet adopted the tool. He notes that COFI is in the process of making sign-up a requirement for membership, but that there is: “a huge number of independent companies out there that don’t belong to associations.” 

“Industry organizations like COFI are encouraging large and small operators across the province to fully commit to adopting the audit tool,” he explains. “MAG members – who represent about 75 per cent of lumber processing in B.C. – are also encouraging other companies to fully implement the tool in their operations, and some are extending it to their operations outside of Canada. We have made all of the associated materials available on the WorksafeBC website to anyone in the industry.” Gorman expects more companies to begin using the tool as the year progresses.

United front
On March 28, a meeting about dust safety was held in B.C. A cross-section of industry associations including COFI, some independent lumber manufacturers, organized labour representatives and WorkSafeBC staff met with Minister Bond as well as the Minister of Forest and Range to develop a joint work plan to ensure all companies meet the government’s dust control regulation.

A joint press release was issued afterwards, which Gorman considers important because it shows a united front from those in attendance. It states, “We had a frank and open discussion on sustainable compliance at this meeting and the result is an aggressive co-ordinated plan to accomplish a number of specific outcomes in the next 90 days.” For example, a team of technical experts established by industry and supported by WorkSafeBC will be created to help all mills with compliance.

Additionally, at organized labour’s request, the joint work plan includes a review of the MAG audit tool by all parties to evaluate it as an enforceable standard. WorkSafeBC has agreed to lead that analysis moving forward.

Sawmill employers, organized labour and WorkSafeBC will also launch an awareness campaign about the rights of workers to refuse unsafe work. A toolbox kit relating to this topic will be provided by WorkSafeBC toemployers and health and safety representatives in all sawmills.

Inspections and compliance
Before the meeting on March 28th, we asked WorkSafeBC what strategies it is using to achieve regulatory compliance among sawmills, and how close it is to shutting down mills because they do not have adequate dust control. WorkSafeBC’s Senior Media Manager Trish Knight Chernecki directed us to a statement, which explains that “where prevention officers find issues that can cause an unsafe environment for workers, officers will educate and consult, and as necessary, write orders to oblige the employer to address those safety issues. As required, WorkSafeBC may also apply administrative penalties.”

As mentioned above, from November 2013 to January 2014, WorkSafeBC found that only 83 of the 144 inspected locations were in full compliance. The organization notes that many of those locations had dust control plans incorporating significant engineering controls to augment and mitigate the amount of manual dust cleanup required. Gorman confirms that sawmill companies have spent millions on better dust control since the tragedies in 2012.

Over the inspection period, WorkSafeBC handed out 93 orders related to combustible dust, most for unacceptable levels of dust accumulation outside normal production areas (for example, basements, crawl spaces, overhead areas, areas hidden behind motor control centres or cabinets and outside areas). The organization handed out 13 stop-work orders relating to unacceptable accumulations of secondary dust and other significant violations, which posed an immediate hazard to the health and safety of workers. However, WorkSafeBC states that: “In most cases, the areas noted were cleaned the same day, allowing production to resume by the next shift. These locations are subject to frequent ongoing inspections to ensure compliance is maintained while mill operators address the challenges noted.”

“Two locations inspected during the initiative received a second stop-work order and have been directed to participate in a closely-monitored compliance plan that includes weekly submissions to WorkSafeBC prevention officers regarding their dust management process. Officers are inspecting these locations at an increased frequency during this monitored phase to ensure the workplaces remain in compliance with WorkSafeBC requirements and expectations.”

There were 17 warning letters given out during this inspection phase. “Warning letters and penalties are tools used by officers, as necessary, to motivate certain employers to comply,” says WorkSafeBC.

As part of the ‘joint work plan’ created at the March 28th meeting, WorkSafeBC will double the size of the designated inspection team to 20 and launch further sawmill inspections (‘Phase 4’ of its inspection initiative in this sector). The focus of this phase will be on companies which have been found to be out of compliance, but all sawmills will be included.

In addition, WorkSafeBC will continue to review its Occupational Health and Safety Policy with a focus, at this stage, on high-risk violations and the consequences for non-compliance. The elements that can lead to a dust explosion will be included.

Gorman is positive about all that is happening in relation to dust in B.C.’s sawmills. “Government, industry, and safety authorities are working closely together to address the risk of combustible wood dust,” he says. “The necessary steps are being taken to achieve sustained compliance with the regulations.”

Wood Processing Plants Continue to Fail Regulatory Inspections

WPAC - Lack of concern - from Canadian Biomass Magazine

Despite dust explosion tragedies, many mills fail inspections.

Written by Gordon Murray

It has been more than two years since the January and April 2012 explosions that destroyed the Babine and Lakeland sawmills in central British Columbia, tragically killing four workers, injuring forty-four more, and putting hundreds out of work.

Investigations by WorkSafe BC (WSBC) and BC Safety Authority (BCSA) determined that both explosions were preventable, having been caused by ineffective control of combustible dust. Each mill was cutting beetle-killed pine, which produces a considerably greater volume of wood dust and much finer dust than from cutting green wood. Suspended dust, confined space, oxygen, and an ignition source combined to cause both explosions. Regulators and forest industry leadership responded swiftly and aggressively.

WSBC developed a combustible dust strategy to cover all categories of wood processing plants. Their strategy included reminding employers of their obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation and advancing a combustible dust management program for employers, consisting of facility risk assessment, development of a combustible dust management plan and employee training. WSBC issued orders for all employers to clean combustible dust in their plants and followed with four successive phases of inspections to assess compliance.

Similarly, BCSA (administrator of the Safety Standards Act) issued a safety order regarding combustible dust to 403 active and inactive sawmills, pulp and paper mills, pellet mills, remanufacturing mills, and other wood processors. Forest industry leaders formed the Manufacturers’ Advisory Group (MAG) to focus on industry efforts with respect to combustible dust. MAG engaged FPInnovations to improve industry’s understanding of dust sampling, analysis and explosibility and to provide an analysis of how to apply National Fire Protection Association standards to wood processing plants. MAG also developed a dust audit tool and set about organizing workshops and other educational resources for industry members. WSBC, BCSA, MAG, the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner, and the Steelworkers Union formed the Fire Inspection and Prevention Initiative to enable multi-stakeholder cooperation and to provide management and worker training.

Yet, given the experience of the Babine and Lakeland tragedies, it is extremely distressing that a significant number of wood processing plants (including pellet plants) continue to fail regulatory inspections. BCSA reported in March that 34 per cent of plants failed their safety inspections due to inadequate dust management plans; dust accumulations adjacent to electrical and gas equipment; lack of understanding of the level of dust that is hazardous; and poor housekeeping.

Similarly, fully 61 of 144 employer locations were not in regulatory compliance during WSBC’s third phase of inspection and 93 orders were issued in relation to combustible dust. Most orders were for “unacceptable levels of dust accumulations outside normal production areas; i.e. basements, crawl spaces, overhead areas, areas hidden behind motor control centres or cabinets, and outside areas.”

While WSBC and BCSA acknowledge that many employers have made substantial progress at implementing systems and equipment to control combustible dust, the number of non-compliant employer locations is simply unacceptable. Surely employers must understand by now the catastrophic consequences of a dust explosion and the means of prevention. It is beyond comprehension that combustible dust remains a crisis issue to be solved.

Recently, B.C. Crown prosecutors announced their intention not to pursue criminal charges relating to the Babine or Lakeland explosions. This caused a wave of public protest putting the B.C. government and WSBC under extreme pressure to prevent such injuries and loss of life from ever happening again. Yet, a substantial portion of our industry remains non-compliant with respect to combustible dust and the risk of another mill explosion remains substantial. And now, given our experience and
all we have learned, the consequences would be unimaginable.

For more on combustible dust and the new regulations, go to .

Gordon Murray is executive director of the Wood Pellet Association
of Canada. He encourages all those who want to support and benefit from
the growth of the Canadian wood pellet industry to join. Gordon welcomes
all comments and can be contacted by telephone at 250-837-8821 or by
email at