Union Products which officially ceased conducting business at it's Leominster, MA plant on November 1, 2006 was in the news unexpectantly with a Wednesday morning fire in a defunct production area where an oven and duct work which hadn't been used in two years still had an accumulation of fibers and dust caught fire. A worker in the building that was being renovated for the new owner, tried to quench the blaze with a fire extinguisher and the dust became airborne and ignited. Deputy Fire Chief Daniel P. Kirouac stated that the automatic alarm and fire sprinkler system saved the building from any devastating damage.
Since 1957, Union Products manufactured pink flamingos that consumers purchased to proudly adorn their manicured lawns. Working as a designer over 50 years ago, Don Featherstone, designed the original clay mold using National Geographic pink flamingo pictures. Don would later become Union Products president. From there, the rest is history but not before Don Featherstone, the artist, was awarded the 1996 Ig Nobel Art Prize for his Pink Flamingo.
Attacking the Dragon
Plant owners, mangers, and workers can still learn from the pink flamingo when it comes to combustible dust related fires and explosions. Never point a direct stream from a fire extinguisher or fire hose onto an incipient combustible dust fire. If you do then it will bring the dust into suspension, which is the perfect ingredient when added to the fire triangle for an ensuing combustible dust fire or explosion.
Installing a fire detection, alarm, and suppression system as Union Products had done many years ago will also prevent total destruction of the facility if a combustible dust fire breaks out on the premises. Over the last three months, since the Imperial Sugar Refinery combustible dust explosion there has been over 48 combustible dust related fires and explosions in the United States. The results of many of these incidents where a fire sprinkler system was not installed, has been costly, causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage and causing economic havoc with plant shutdowns.
In regards to demolition work where combustible particulate solids have generated combustible dust make sure the contractors have been trained on the hazards of combustible dust or in best case scenario perform a thorough cleaning of all duct work prior to demo work. Several combustible dust fires have occurred in the past where the plant has been shutdown yet combustible fires still occurring during demo or remodeling.
Thanks to the pink flamingo all stakeholders in the manufacturing process can now have a more adept situational awareness when fighting incipient combustible dust fires and scheduling demolition or remodeling work at the facility. Additionally, installing costly fire suppression and destruction systems can save a plant from total destruction.
From: In the pink no more MEANWHILE by Jenny Price
Source: International Herald Tribune, 11/18/2006.
Via: HighBeam™ Research