Monday, December 29, 2008

Grain Facility Explosion in Arizona

Update : Reports of a welder on top of the silo, moments prior to the explosion

Just how well is the OSHA Grain Facility Standard working? Only through media accounts is it possible to ascertain the magnitude of combustible dust related fires and explosions in the grain and manufacturing sectors. Possibly someday an anonymous incident reporting system can be implemented by all stakeholders where the probability and severity of incidents can be understood in the development of process safety information for a thorough process hazard analysis.

The dust explosion at Arizona Grain brings to question the hot work permit system as outlined in the OSHA Grain Facility Standard 29 CFR 1910.272 . For instance, the employer shall issue a permit for all hot work, with the following exceptions:

1910.272(f)(1)(i) -Where the employer or the employer's representative (who would otherwise authorize the permit) is present while the hot work is being performed.

1910.272(f)(1)(iii) In hot work areas authorized by the employer which are located outside of the grain handling structure.

So is it okay to conduct hot work adjacent to an explosive atmosphere when the employer's representative is present.? What is the difference if a representative is present or not? Combustible dust will explode or deflagrate either way once an ignition source is present.

Reviewing the OSHA Welding, Cutting, and Brazing Standard, 1910 Subpart Q provides a more clearer approach to lessening the probability of fire/explosion incidents. The current OSHA Grain Facility Standard needs to be reviewed in conjunction with the OSHA Welding Standard in regards to the exception previously cited, to ensure incidents are prevented and mitigated.

In the meantime NFPA 51B: Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work, should be required reading for all stakeholders that conduct hot work in the vicinity of combustible particulate solids that generate combustible dust. Click here to review standard

NFPA 68 Standard on Explosion Protection by Deflagration Venting, Annex E & F is an excellent resource in understanding how the overpressure characteristics are not to be ignored. In many instances the Pmax and Kst (deflagration index) of combustible dusts is similar to Pmax and Kg (deflagration index) of flammable gases. This alone, is proof that there should be no confusion in developing a single combustible dust regulation for the variety of combustible dusts found throughout the manufacturing, non-manufacturing, utility, and grain sectors.

Video CBS Channel 5 News
Series of Explosions
Prior Conveyor Belt Fire
Google Map Grain Facility Explosions & Fires 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Milk Powder Combustible Dust Hazards

It's been nearly two months now since the California Dairies Inc facility in Visalia, Ca experienced an explosion in the milk hydrator. According to news accounts, "the explosion blew out a "blowout panel" in the five story tower but the structure itself was safe." This is an excellent example how an industry leader in the United States implements good engineering practices in reducing the severity of a combustible dust explosion where ignition sources are readily present.

Another example of proactive measures, is the dairy industry in New Zealand, which is a global leader in milk powder production. In a recent discussion with Dr. Chris Bloore, Dairy Industry Systems Consultant, in Dunedin, New Zealand highlighted that back in 1988 the dairy industry, Insurance Council, Labour Department and Fire Service got together and after 2 years of meetings and discussions arrived at the Appoved Code of Practice for the Prevention, Detection and Control of Fire and Explosion in New Zealand Dairy Industry Spray Drying Plant (1990).This is available for FREE download as a .pdf

The New Zealand Department of Labor's web page on Approved Code of Practice notes that:

An approved code does not have the same legal force as a regulation, and failure to comply with a code of practice is not, of itself, an offence. However, observance of a relevant code of practice may be considered as evidence of good practice in a court.

Dr. Bloore emphasized, "that
the NZ dairy industry earns about 25% of the country's export income, and nearly half that comes from powders. We make over 1.1 million tonnes (about 2.2 billion pounds) of milkpowder each year, so the rate of explosions per pound is not high. The cost per explosion ranges from a few thousand dollars up to US$15 million."

In addition to
whole milk powder (WMP or Full cream Milk Powder FCMP) and skim milk powder (SMP or Non Fat Dried Milk). Dr Bloore notes, that New Zealand manufactures several tens of thousands of tonnes each of :

  • Buttermilk powder (BMP)
  • Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) powder
  • Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
  • nutritional powders (infant formula, growing up milks etc.)
"These bring the total tonnage to around 1.1 million tonnes per year, which New Zealand exports virtually 100% of powder production. The local consumption is restricted to calf food powders and small volumes of powders as food ingredients and some body building and health related products," says Dr. Bloore

The above example in New Zealand where the fire service and insurance sector works collectively with stakeholders in labor, business and government in seeking a potential solution in lessening the likelihood and reducing the severity of combustible dust related fires and explosions might be of interest to stakeholders here in North America.

For additional information on Case Studies and Principles, Prevention, Detection and Control of fire and explosion hazards in milk powder production, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute recommends the training pamphlets that Dr. Chris Bloore has available for purchase. Contact Dr. Bloore at who will also be a keynote speaker April 15-17, 2009 at the 4th International Symposium of Spray Dried Dairy Products in Melbourne, Australia.

Resources :

NZ Code of Practice in Spray Drying

Conventional Spray Drying Concept

World Dairy Production Trends

Top Five World Milk Powder Producers

U.S. Dairy Export Council

Milk and Milk Products: A Global Market Analysis

International Symposium on Spray Dried Products 15-17 April 2009

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spark Detection Systems-Podcast #4

Click Player for Podcast

Allen Wagoner, V.P. at Flamex and Bob Barnum, V.P Sales at GreCon Inc., discuss important aspects of spark detection engineering controls in lessening the probability and reducing the severity of combustible dust related fires and explosions at facilities.

Over the past year the Combustible Dust Policy Institute has found through media accounts over 130+ combustible dust related fires and explosions. Many of these incidents could have been prevented and mitigated with proper engineering controls as referenced in the NFPA Combustible Dust Standards. Concerning fire and explosion protection for process equipment, NFPA 654 lists several protection methods such as:

  • Oxidant Concentration Reduction
  • Deflagration venting
  • Deflagration pressure containment
  • Deflagration suppression
  • Dilution with non-combustible dust
  • Deflagration venting through a dust retention and flame-arresting device

In today’s podcast, we’ll discuss fire and explosion protection methods utilizing spark detection and extinguishment. Spark detection systems are used in dust collectors and pneumatic conveying systems to detect and extinguish sparks and embers.

Click Picture for Animation

Photo Credit: GreCon
The applications listed above are for example only. Qualified personnel must design suitable pneumatic conveying, electrical, and plumbing systems to local regulations, plant equipment and requirements. The drawings shown below may not meet the needs all facilities, but these drawings demonstrate how spark detection systems can be used in similar applications with the appropriate design


NFPA 654 Combustible Dust Standard
Flame Detection Tutorial-Sense Ware
Infrared Radiation

Combustible Dust: Threat to First Responders

BlogTalkRadio host Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), at the Watering Hole will feature a discussion Friday evening 9:00PM PST, December 19, 2008 with John Astad and Justin Clift, Industrial Market Specialist at Hazard Control Technologies on Combustible Dust Hazards that are unknowingly present when emergency responders respond to combustible dust related fires and explosions in the manufacturing, non-manufacturing, utility sectors.

In the past, fire-fighter fatalities and injuries have occurred when responding to these incidents. These occurrences could have been prevented if responders understood the hidden and unknown dangers of combustible dust found throughout the diverse multitude of manufacturing facilities.

Currently a situational awareness is lacking nationwide that combustible dust also poses a potential explosive atmosphere in the same light as flammable gases, vapors, and mists. Instead of vapor cloud or BLEVE explosions that occur in the refining sector there are deflagrations and dust explosions in the manufacturing sector.

Listeners can call in live Friday evening toward the end of the show by dialing the Call-in Number: (646) 378-1513.


4th Annual Industrial Fire, Safety, and Security Conference (IFSS 2009) Combustible Dust Hazard Workshop Feb. 3-4 2009 Houston, Texas at the Reliant Center (next to the Astrodome)

2. Global Malt Explosion-1 Fire-fighter fatality/7 injuries

3. Six Stockton, Ca firefighters slightly hurt in plant explosion

4. BlogTalkRadio

Thursday, December 4, 2008

House-Keeping: Combustible Dust Hazards-Podcast#3

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I like to welcome Jon Barrett a graduate from Temple University and Business Development Specialist at Interior Maintenance Company, Inc. to ComDust Podcast #3. We had the opportunity to discuss the importance of regular housekeeping at facilities that accumulate combustible dust during the manufacturing process.

Interior Maintenance Company, Inc.(IMC) located in Lansdowne, PA serving the Mid-Atlantic Region since 1973.was founded in by Chuck and Maria Mongiello, for the purpose of providing quality contract cleaning services for commercial facilities. Joined by sons Chuck in 1986 and Matt in 1990, IMC remains a family owned and operated business employing over ninety dedicated associates.

Housekeeping is an important aspect at any facility that handles combustible particulate solids that generate combustible dust. A regular cleaning program minimizing the fuel source must be implemented which lessens the likelihood and reduces the severity of potential combustible dust related fires and explosion.

Surfaces such as rafters, ceiling trusses, piping, conduit, lighting, ductwork, and other flat surfaces that accumulate combustible dust, fibers, and flings must be cleaned on a regular basis. In large facilities these hidden areas can encompass over 5% of the facility, enough to create a catastrophic dust explosion when a weaker primary explosion or deflagration creates a disturbance where these particles will float down meeting an ensuing flame front.

Good Housekeeping
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: combustible dust)

Utilizing high reach and high lift mechanized equipment, along with ladders and scaffolding, IMC technicians are able to safely access the above areas. Safety is IMC's main concern, and all IMC technicians are trained to perform the work in compliance with OSHA Standards requiring the proper Fall Protection and the use of safety harness' and lanyards.

Cleaning is typically performed by using HEPA-filtered vacuums with attached brushes to provide surface cleaning of loose particulate debris. Wet wiping, or wiping with a chemically treated cloth, are also methods utilized to control the dust and debris from cross contaminating into other areas.

Give IMC a call for a combustible dust hazards evaluation concerning your next cleaning schedule.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fire-Fighter Combustible Dust Hazards Workshop

Unknown hidden dangers are posed on emergency responders when responding to combustible dust related fires and explosions are addressed at the Combustible Dust Hazard Workshop during the 4th Annual Industrial Fire, Safety, and Security Confere
February 3-6 2009 @ Reliant Center (next to the Astrodome) Houston,Texas.

Here is recent example of fire-fighter injuries responding to combustible dust related fires Currently, MSDS's do not have the vital fire/explosion hazard data concerning the explosive severity and ignition sensitivity of combustible dusts generated from combustible particulate solids.


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The information in is not meant to be a substitute for the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Federal Register, and other OSHA documents, which should serve as the primary source of regulatory guidance. The information on this site should not be used in place of appropriate technical or legal advice related to your company's specific circumstances. Combustible Dust Policy Institute tries to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site and its associated sites. Combustible Dust Policy Institute has no liability arising from or relating to the use, interpretation, or application of the information or its accuracy or inaccuracy. Copyright notice: All materials in this site are copyrighted by the Combustible Dust Policy Institute. No materials may be directly or indirectly published, posted to Internet and intranet distribution channels, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed in any medium without permission.