Thursday, September 11, 2008

Suppression System Successfully Extinguishes Fire

Here is a success story in regards to a recent fire at a textile mill in Pennsylvania. A news account in the Republican-Herald reported that the automatic fire alarm alerted the local Pine Grove, Pennsylvania fire department and upon their arrival the fire was extinguished by the factory’s fire-suppression system.

"Pine Grove Fire Chief Dave Sattizahn said a heat buildup of more than 300 degrees started the fire.“Lint or something got caught up in there,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure what yet. I don’t know if it was blocked. These things happen. It’s a common thing in the fabric industry."

The fire occurred in the duct work connected to a process machine. Guilford Performance Textiles is a global leader in textile and fabric finishing for over six decades. Additionally, the company is leading by example with the proactive mitigative fire protection measures that management has instituted in the plant with fire detection and suppression systems that reduced the severity of the recent incident.

Ignition and fuel sources are an inherent aspect at manufacturing facilities and fires unfortunately will continue to occur. It's through a comprehensive process hazard analysis that the likelihood and severity of incidents can be minimized. Plant managers and owners throughout the manufacturing sector can learn from this incident in minimizing the risk at their plant.

Guliford is listed as NAICS: 313312-Textile and Fabric Finishing Mills and not found in the OSHA Combustible Dust NEP where only 16% manufacturing sector NAICS are targeted for OSHA inspections with an emphasis on dust. Additionally, more than 50% of the 90+ combustible related fires and explosions in the last seven months are not listed in the NEP either. Relying solely on the OSHA Dust NEP as a solution does not address the complex combustible dust issue.

Even if your facility does have a NAICS that is listed in the NEP the chance of an OSHA inspection with a dust emphasis is very slim. For example of the over 2,000 NAICS 313311 Broadwoven Fabric Finishing Mills, 4%(29) had a facility inspection within the last twelve months by a CHSO and only 0ne of these was with an emphais for combustible dust. There are many more recent examples like this, which the Combustible Dust Policy Institute has discovered through research of incidents provided through news accounts.

Across the nation, informative training seminars are conducted for stakeholders on preventative and mitigative measures in reducing the likelihood of combustible dust related explosions and fires. During these very educational workshops, the most referenced document in addtion to the CSB Dust Hazard Study and NFPA combustible dust standards, is the OSHA Dust NEP.

This is fine if your facility has NAICS that is listed in the NEP. But what about the other 84% NAICS in the manufacturing sector. Of course not all of these handle combustible particulate solids that generate combustible dust. Yet over 50% of the manufacturing facilities that experienced combustible dust incidents in the last seven months had NAICS not listed in the NEP.

So are you going to gamble on a 50:50 chance that your plant won't have a troubling combustible dust related fire and explosion in the near future? Worrying about an OSHA inspection should be a secondary thought. As outlined in the NFPA combustible dust standards, the life safety, mission continuity, and structural integrity of the premises is of utmost importance.

The recent statistical data of incidents and OSHA inspection reveals the true story. If you are the majority and not the minority then don't fall under the false presumption that the OSHA Dust NEP will provide the answer. Take steps now as Guilford and many other facilities not listed in the NEP have already done.

Statistical NAICS reports of prior OSHA inspections and combustible dust related incidents are now available at the Combustible Dust Policy Institute, which are utilized in the process hazard analysis in determining the likelihood and severity of combustible dust incidents. Unfortunately, while thinking outside the box, the research in acquiring this data does not rely solely on the Combustible Dust NEP.


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