Thursday, October 30, 2008

Over 155 Dust Explosions/Fires 2008

Is the OSHA grain facility standard working? Luckily workers escaped injury at the Destrehan, Louisiana grain elevator explosion early Thursday morning. Since the beginning of 2008, through media accounts, an alarming tally of 13 grain facility combustible dust related explosions have occurred throughout the United States. Dust explosions and fires have plagued a wide swath of industry whether it be in manufacturing or the grain sectors.

Grain and Manufacturing Sectors
Fast rewind, over two decades ago after a rash of 1977 grain silo explosions that caused dozens of fatalities and resulted in the OSHA Grain Facility Standard , which outlined measures in protecting the workforce from combustible grain dust explosions and fires. But still, fires and explosions continue to occur resulting in numerous fatalities and injuries.

Immediately after the February 7, 2008 catastrophic Imperial Sugar Refinery dust explosion in Port Wentworth, Georgia , congressional leaders drafted a combustible dust bill that outlined provisions in protecting the manufacturing sector workforce from the hazards of combustible dust explosions and fires. The bill currently sits very bored, and stretched out, yawning waiting for action in Senate chambers after passing in the House by a mostly Democrat roll call.

Kick Like a Mule
Why does there have to be two separate OSHA regulations concerning combustible dust explosions and fires ? One for the grain sector and one proposed for the manufacturing sector? An explosion is an explosion just like a mule is a mule. Just different colors and a different sort of swag of the tail but the same powerful kick as any muleskinner can tell you.

The effects of any explosion whether it be a physical or chemical explosion entail damaging effects of overpressure, thermal radiation, and ensuing projectiles. Dust explosions are quite similar to vapor cloud explosions (VCE) that occur when flammable gases or vapors are suspended in air combined with the essential flammable limit (LFL-UFL) and joining their buddy, an ignition source.

Amazingly, the maximum pressures (Pmax) that develop in milliseconds, with the energy release of a dust or vapor cloud explosion in general are quite similar, around 7 Bar (1 bar = 14.5 psi) or 100 psi. Around 3 psi is enough to knock many commercial buildings down such as with aluminum siding

In 2008, through media accounts, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute has noted over 155 combustible dust related explosions and fires in the combined grain and manufacturing sectors. Dust explosions that result in adverse economic impact, fatalities and injuries do not differentiate between a grain elevator or dust collector inside a manufacturing process facility.


Crowl, D. A. (2003). Gases and Vapors. In Understanding Explosions (p. 17). Wiley-AIChE.
Crowl, D. (2003). Appendix E Combustion Data For Dust Clouds. In Understanding Explosions (p.
191). New York, New York: Wiley-AIChE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Flame Resistant Garments: Minimizing Combustible Dust Hazards

David Osbon here from UniFirst Corporation and just wanted to post to the blog to introduce myself to the network and talk about a few things related to Combustible Dust Explosions. Following the catastrophic events that took place in February in Port Wentworth, GA I have spent a great deal of time researching combustible dust and the hazards associated with dust. I will be the first to admit that prior to the February event I did not understand the devastating effect of these explosions. I do now - I have seen it first hand.

Minimizing the Risk
My background is technical in nature. Prior to my current employment I researched and developed flame resistant fabrics for the industrial sector (NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace 2009 , Petrochem, Electric Utilities, etc). I have investigated many fatalities and in almost every case - the fatality was PREVENTABLE! In almost all cases EDUCATION and UTILIZATION of the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) would have prevented or minimized the extent of the injuries associated with the accident.

Through all of the research I have conducted over the last several months, one of the main issues that I see as "lacking" in most of the CSB reports, the House of Representatives meeting (HR5522), and all of the OSHA NEP directive information is the utilization of PPE.

NFPA 2113
Flame-Resistant Garments
The OSHA directive CPL 03-00-008 Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (Reissued) ,does make specific reference to General Duty Clause (OSHA 1910.132) citations if the hazard is present and the appropriate PPE is not utilized. The directive goes on to mention NFPA 2113 -Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire as a reference document for selection and care of FR garments. NFPA 2113 has a specific section that deals with combustible dust.

What I do not find is a specific section that requires the use of FR garments. As I have seen with the NFPA 70E market, the electric utility market, and the petrochem market - OSHA has generally left this area vague and has relied on the General Duty Clause as a "catch all" gray area to allow citations to be issued without having to write the requirement in to LAW!

After reviewing the LONG list of fines associated with the Port Wentworth event I did note approximately $249,000 in General Duty Clause violations. As information to the post - the Port Wentworth site is now outfitting ALL personnel in Flame Resistant garments to increase their overall level of protection.

Improved Technology
While flame resistant fabrics and garments will not eliminate ALL injuries associated with combustible dust hazards, I strongly believe that the use of these garments would have minimized some of the burn injuries. Fabric and garment technology has improved ten fold over the last 5 years. Garments are now lighter weight, more comfortable, more durable, and more protective than at anytime in the past.

We are in the beginning stages of working with NFPA on a new standard that would increase the awareness and use of protective garments in combustible dust situations.As well, a member of my team has just joined the ASTM committee that deals with combustible dust. I personally am active with ASTM F23 (Committee on PPE and Equipment) and F18 (electrical workers).

It is my hope that we can build a network of professionals that are experts on combustible dust that will be able to educate the public on the hazard and tools available to minimize burn injury. If we can save one life - this would all be worth it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Combustible Dust Hazards Training-Strategic Alliances

Stakeholders across a wide spectrum of industry through education can minimize the occurrence and reduce the severity of combustible dust hazards that are inherent aspect of the manufacturing process. Strategic alliances of user groups, safety councils, OSHA regional offices, and industry leaders are vital in developing a situational proactive awareness in reducing fatalities, injuries, and adverse economic impact caused by combustible dust related fires and explosions.

OSHA Regional Training
MNOSHA (State OSHA Plan) which is part of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry consists of separate enforcement and consultation services. Through the Workplace Safety Consultation Division, MNOSHA has already presented two combustible dust training seminars in St. Paul and Cloquet and will be presenting the third seminar, " Preventing Combustible Dust Explosions," seminar November 19, 2008 in St. Cloud, MN. Seating is limited, call 651-284-5060 for additional information.

Currently MNOSHA is working on adopting the Federal OSHA Dust NEP, which is voluntary for the 22 states that have their own separate State OSHA Plan. An excerpt from the Novemeber 2, 2007 Minutes of the Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Council mentions MNOSHA's "Intent to Adopt Identical" combustible dust emphasis program as outlined in the Federal NEP. Hopefully in the future other State OSHA Plan states will follow the example that is being developed in Minnesota.
In the meantime MNHA is hosting combustible dust seminars in a strategic alliance with BS&B Pressure Safety Management

User Group Training
Manufacturing and Energy Utility user groups are vital in addressing their membership concerning "best practices." The PRB Coal Users Group is actively addressing the hazards of combustible dust in coal fired energy plants. When referring to the Combustible Dust NEP in Appendix D-1, Industries with More Frequent and/or High Consequence Combustible Dust Explosions/Fires. coal fired energy plants are noted as NAICS 221112, Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation . The PRB Coal Users Group in conjunction with Power Magazine is offering a Webinar "Combustible Dust: Proactive approaches to managing combustible dust,"
on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 10AM Central.

Safety Council Training
The Illinois Safety Council (ISC) has hosted several combustible dust training seminars over the past several months. Working closely with John Newquist, OSHA's Region V Assistant Regional Administrator for State Cooperative Programs and Joe Howicz, CSP and Fire Protection Expert, ISC will host additional training at the University of Illinois October 30, 2008 and November 20, 2008 with the Combustible Dust Explosion Inspection Seminars.

Industry Training
Chilworth Technology, an industry leader in providing process safety services throughout the industry is offering several one-day combustible dust training courses "OSHA Dust Explosion Inspection Preparatory Training," during November and December in Georgia, New Jersey, and Illinois. Chilworth Technology offers a wide range of consulting services in preventing and mitigating combustible dust hazards.

Combustible Dust Policy Institute
It's important that all stakeholders with concerns of combustible dust hazards work together through strategic alliances in addressing the complex issue of combustible dust . The Combustible Dust Policy Institute serves as an informational gateway in providing a situational awareness throughout the manufacturing and utility sectors. Feedback and input is much appreciated and I welcome visitors to the Combustible Dust site in joining the professional combustible dust network on LinkedIn.

The mission of the Combustible Dust Policy Institute is to minimize the severity and reduce the occurrence of combustible dust related fires and explosions in the nation’s workplace. Through ongoing research of combustible dust related incidents, which identifies and evaluates risk, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute provides risk assessment information that a diverse spectrum of stakeholders utilize in effectively controlling combustible dust hazards. Assisting stakeholders in this endeavor, health and safety compliance is achieved in addition to reducing workplace fatalities, injuries, and adverse economic impact.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ComDust Alert #2 -Combine Harvester Combustible Dust Fires

I found an interesting article regarding combine harvester combustible dust hazards and would like to share it with everyone. It's really a combination of several stories that spans two continents, one under the equator for all you shellbacks and one above the equator here in the USA.

For instance, last week a news article from
MPNnow (10/16/08) of a combine that caught fire in Farmington, N.Y., which was a total loss of $240,000. The farmer thinks that a spark from one of the blades ignited a layer of soybean dust inside the equipment. This sounds so familiar in the manufacturing sector where a spark travels through the duct work into the dust collector causing a fire or much worse an explosion.

Anyway, fast forward to an article today originating in Australia where harvesting of grain crops has begun and the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) is providing a warning :

"The machinery itself, I mean it's all metal so it can get hot and if there's any build up of dust on the equipment that does get hot, well then it can ignite very quickly and they'll lose a fairly expensive piece of equipment..."

These are excellent examples illustrating how hot surfaces cause combustible dust fires no matter if its in the manufacturing sector or farming sector. Until reading these articles originating from both sides of the Pacific Ocean I had no idea there was a combustible dust hazard on farm equipment. I wonder if all the global farmers operating those very expensive combine harvesters know about the combustible dust hazards?

10/13/08 Combine Fire-Argos, Indiana
10/6/08 Combine Fire - Elma, Iowa
1o/2/08 Combine Fire-Wallingford, Iowa

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Very Normal Explosion ?

Syrian grain silo explosion accident: official

I wonder what an abnormal explosion would be? This normal explosion resulted in 1 fatality, 20 injuries, collapse of a two-floor building nearby, a five-phase metal tower and a metal bridge to carry cereals.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Combustible Dust Hazard Awareness Discussions on LinkedIn

View John Astad's profile on LinkedIn

Here is an open invitation to join the Combustible Dust Forum on LinkedIn. Robert Dombroski the technical project manager at EMSL Analytical Inc., initiated the forum which is open to all stakeholders that wish to discuss issues concerning identifying, evaluating and controlling the hazards of combustible dust in the workplace.

Additionally, the LinkedIn professional network is an ideal venue where we can all communicate effectively between each other concerning a diverse spectrum of combustible dust topics. To join the Combustible Dust Forum you must first sign up on LinkedIn and complete a profile, this eliminates any spammers from interfering and sending unwanted messages.

27 January 2012 Update
The above Combustible Dust Forum was the first combustible dust discussion group on Linkedin. Subsequently, two months later in November 2008, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute also started a discussion group in Linkedin. These are both valuable resources for stakeholders seeking information on combustible dust hazard awareness.

Friday, October 10, 2008

ComDust Alert #1 -Demolition Work Combustible Dust Hazard

Fire crews called to Hoover plant

Over the past year the Combustible Dust Policy Institute has observed through media accounts, numerous preventable combustible dust fires occurring at facilities where demolition work is conducted. Contractors must be informed by plant owners when working adjacent to process equipment such as ducting and bulk storage enclosures. A dilemma exists when the plant is sold and then vacant. How does the appropriate parties obtain the essential risk assessment information?

Prior to demolition work starting, a thorough risk assessment must be performed by all stakeholders, which identifies, evaluates, and controls the risk. Either the combustible dust hazard must be eliminated or managed appropriately. Most contractors are not aware of combustible dust hazards while conducting their work at manufacturing facilities. This presents a serious problem when heat sources from grinding and cutting tools adjacent to fuel sources complete the fire triangle.

Another possible solution in preventing future combustible dust related fires during demolition work is through an education effort involving area safety councils across the nation working proactively with their construction and manufacturing sector membership. Until some form of proactive situational awareness measure is implemented these incidents will continue.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Combustible Dust Explosion Inspection Training

The Illinois Safety Council is hosting several Combustible Dust Explosion Inspection Seminars at the University of Illinois in Naperville, Illinois on October 30 and November 20, 2008. Joseph Howicz, who has served for over 30 years as an OSHA Compliance Officer and OSHA Instructor in addition to John Newquist, OSHA's Region V Assistant Regional Administrator for Cooperative and State Programs will be speakers at the seminars.

Topics will include preventing and mitigating explosions, OSHA Combustible Dust NEP, OSHA Inspection Details, and a review of the important NFPA 654 Combustible Dust standard. Naperville is a short drive from Chicago's O'Hara Airport. Attendees who complete the one day program will receive Certificates of Completion (CEU) from the University of Illinois.

Registration and Application .pdf


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