Saturday, April 19, 2008

Failure Knowledge Database-JST

An excellent resource in studying the cause an effects of accidents can be found at the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST website. Under the direction of Professor Yotaro Hatamura (Kogakuin Univ.), a Failure Knowledge Database was developed. Several of the incidents involve combustible dusts and it is very helpful browsing and reviewing all the incidents. This would be a fantastic tool to implement in the United States in assisting industry in the prevention of reoccurring predictable and preventable ComDustX accidents. Question is, who would enter the data and would the manufacturing industry provide such hush-hush information?

Costly Information
Currently, in order to learn about combustible dusts, one has to spend hundreds of dollars to attend out-of-state educational sessions at conferences and seminars. Many stakeholders which include millions of workers in the manufacturing industries, don't have several weeks of their paycheck to spend for such an outlay on these educational endeavors. More information needs to be available freely on the Internet, like the Japan Science and Technology Agency has provided.

Global Resources
On the other side of the globe, the Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitsschutz - BGIA in Germany has a free database of combustion and explosion characteristics of dusts from more than 4000 dust samples across a wide spectrum of industries. Why doesn't the United States have such a database? Up until 1996, the U.S. Bureau of Mines was the primary organization conducting scientific research and providing information on combustible dusts. Now, after over a decade, the agency is gone with no replacement . Where is the leadership in government in providing the data that our industrial infrastructure needs?

Instead the nation has to resort to Acts of Congress, like an act of war in providing safety standards regarding workplace safety issues. Standardization in preventive and mitigative measures is only one aspect of the pyramid. Transparency and ease in availability of vital information is also required. For example, you have two manufacturing processes exactly alike. One on the East Coast, the other on the West Coast. Suppose a ComDustX incident occurs on the West Coast due too a static electricity source. Wouldn't it be prudent to share that information with the entire industry in the prevention of future electrostatic ComDustX incidents? But no, this isn't done in the U.S., it takes several years for information availability.

Global Collaboration
Japan and Germany are just two countries which are also our global trading and security partners. There are many other nations spanning the globe that governmental, industry, and academia need to collaborate with concerning the complex subject of ComDustX. Why waste time and other resources if specialized work and programs have already been successfully implemented? A global Internet revolution on combustible dust is in order.

California ComDustX Record Outstanding

How can one state that has over 13% of the nation's 333,460 manufacturing establishments, according to U.S Census Bureau 2005 data, maintain such a superb record of minimal combustible dust incidents? Across the board in the food, metal, wood, chemical, plastics/rubber, and textile industries, California has stayed off the radar with no incidents over the last two months. Either ComDust incidents are not being reported by the local press or industry must have a instituted a phenomenal preventive and mitigative combustible dust safety program.

Currently California has four times as many manufacturing facilities (44,825) than 84% of the 50 states in the union. Over the past 10 weeks since the Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion there has been over 30 combustible dust related fires and explosions occurring across a wide spectrum of industries throughout the United States from coast to coast. The revealing aspect is in over 45% of these incidents, California has the leading number of establishments in the following distinct industries were incidents have occurred in other states. Yet none in California.

How can this be? The math doesn't compute, since it seems if you have the leading number of industries, then shouldn't the state lead in ComDust incidents?

  • Breakfast Cereal Manufacturing
  • Dog and Cat Food Manufacturing
  • Dry, Condensed, and Evaporated Dairy Product Manufacturing
  • Cut Stock, Resawing Lumber, and Planing
  • Other Millwork (including Flooring
  • Institutional Furniture Manufacturing
  • Nonupholstered Wood Household Furniture Manufacturing
  • Electroplating, Plating, Polishing, Anodizing, and Coloring
  • Nonwoven Fabric Mills
  • Thread Mills
  • Dental Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing
  • Adhesive Manufacturing
  • Urethane and Other Foam Product (except Polystyrene) Manufacturing

Currently, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute is reviewing governmental historical data from various agencies in the determination of abnormal trends in specific industries and locales where combustible dust incidents occur. The results will assist in managing resources where ComDustX hot spots occur and strategically direct stakeholders in an efficient manner in conjunction with lowering operating costs.

For instance, in the wet corn milling industry (NAICS) 311221, the Chemical Safety Board Combustible Dust Hazard Study collected data on 21 ComDust incidents from the period 1980-2005 in this industry. The wet corn milling industry has 66 establishments nationwide, employing nearly 9,000 workers in this food manufacturing subsector according to governmental data from 2005.

Iowa, the leading state with 12 establishments had 5 of the 21 incidents during the above noted period. In contrast, Illinois with 4 wet corn milling facilities had 7 incidents (33%) of the 21 incidents. Why does one state with three times as many establishments as the other, have 30% less occurrences of ComDustX incidents?

States with good records of low incident rates could possibly collaborate with high incident rate states in the reduction of future ComDustX incidents. A central clearing house could be developed across a wide spectrum of industries in facilitating future administrative controls. Regulations are only a temporary fix unless communication is maintained between industry stakeholders when dealing with the complex subject of combustible dust.


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