Friday, December 21, 2012

Incident Type data element # 244 Dust explosion NFIRS

Area of Origin: 2006 NFIRS Combustible Dust Related Fire Analysis

Just recently an Incident Type data element #244 Dust explosion (no fire) was added to National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) (Page 3-24 .pdf). Many stakeholders are aware of combustible dust related fires with an Area of Origin in which NFIRS also recognizes service area data elements #52 Conduit, pipe, utility, or ventilation shaft, #55 Duct, Includes HVAC, cable, exhaust, and #58 Conveyors (pages 4-16 and 4-17 .pdf) In contrast, no recognition of dust collectors in Equipment Involved in Ignition (EII), Shop Tools and Industrial Equipment (pages 4-31 though 4-32) nor Area of Origin. A recent analysis of NFIRS 2006 data indicated pipes, ventilation shafts, ductwork, and conveyors as the area of origin in over 16% of combustible dust related fires in manufacturing sector service areas.

FM Global provides informative guidance in "Prevention and Mitigation of Combustible Dust Explosions and Fire," Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet No. 7-76, (page 38 .pdf) in Table 6 Loss by Equipment Type with dust collectors noted as the leading type of equipment involved in combustible dust incidents.

Here in the USA a problem arises with fire departments voluntarily reporting dust collector explosions or fires to the National Fire Data Center (NFDC) through National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). For instance, there's no specific data element to report dust collectors in NFIRS like for the data element #244 dust explosions. If the incident is not recorded then it is as if the incident never happened. NFIRS data is considered a legal document for reporting purposes

Is this acceptable to recognize data element #244 dust explosion in NFIRS yet ignore dust collectors? Sort off like a Catch-22 situation where many dust explosions and combustible dust related fires occur in dust collectors yet no adequate manner to report dust collector incidents comprehensively.

Currently there are no immediate plans for changes to the NFIRS. In the meantime, the National Fire Data Center (NFDC) accepts suggestions for changes for review in the next version of NFIRS. Anyone is welcome to forward specific suggestions to NFDC in addition to supporting documentation. Please forward documentation requesting a dust collector data element be added to NFIRS to Brad Pabody, Chief, National Fire Data Center, United States Fire Administration (301) 447-1049 (Fax) or brad.pabody(@) Thanks.

NFIRS 5.0 Complete Reference Guide 

Guidance on how to analyze NFIRS Version 5.0 fire data,  refer to USFA’s National Fire Incident Reporting System Version 5.0 Fire Data Analysis Guidelines and Issues documentation. 

     Information about the methodologies used in analyzing NFIRS data, Chapter 1 of Fire in the United States 2003-2007 15th Edition.

Using NFIRS to compute national estimates in  analyses,  article on the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Web page “The National Estimates Approach to U.S. Fire Statistics” by Hall and Harwood.

·         Details on the U.S. Fire Administration’s current fire data estimation methodology for all building (i.e., residential and nonresidential) fires and associated losses,  review the “National Estimates Methodology for Building Fires and Losses” (August 2012).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Responding to Bulk Storage Combustible Dust Related Fires

Firefighting Piercing Rod Kit

Justin Clift, Industrial Marker Manager from Hazard Control Technologies shares with readers in this article the intricacies in combating combustible dust related fires. Justin emphasizes these fires can be safely extinguished with the correct equipment and fire fighting agent while following a six-step hazard elimination procedure.

1) Understand, Assess & Identify Incident Hazards
2) Eliminate Secondary Dust Hazards
3) Eliminate Primary Dust Hazards
4) Eliminate Flash Fuel Hazards
5) Eliminate Smoldering Hazard
6) Eliminate Injuries

You must use the micelle encapsulating agent, F-500 and you may require a Piercing Rod Kit for deep seated hot spots (>10ft below surface). Foam caps the material trapping the combustible vapors and will not penetrate. For instance, water will not penetrate or saturate the material.

Deep Seated Fires
When a deep seated hot spot burns it dries out the material surrounding it forming a crust. As the temperature increases the crust becomes thicker and thicker. 95% of the time, the crust will adhere to the sides of the structure so attempting to run it out is not an suitable option. This crust will continue to slowly expand until the weight of the material above it causes it to collapse.

This collapse will typically result into a flash fire, which hits the structures ceiling adding confinement and triggering the primary explosion. The primary explosion disperses the float dust on surrounding structures and equipment, which contacts the primary explosion's flame front and triggers a catastrophic secondary explosion.

You can't flood the structure with water because water will not penetrate this crust. If enough water is applied, it's weight will allow it to penetrate the material but it still can't penetrate the hot spot's crust. Thus it runs off to the sides and starts washing away the foundation of the hot spot, causing it to collapse and triggering the chain of events as discussed above.

The root cause of the problem is a lack of knowledge on combustible dust related fires and explosions. Emergency Responders need to be rebooted for a lack of a better term. The actual fire or smoldering material is not their problem, their problem is the environment surrounding the fire and the nature of a deep seated hot spots.

Firefighters have the equipment and training to be very successful at extinguished fires, they can see. However, it's extremely difficult to fight a fire no one can see and if you can't see it then you can't confirm it's been extinguished and you can't let your guard down. Our Emergency Response Team knows to never trust a fire you can't see. It's not a safe scene until we have confirmed extinguishment to the best of our abilities and all material has been completely removed from the structure.

Presentation and Videos
If you’re interested, here is a hyperlink where you can download some videos and a presentation I delivered recently at Coal Industry Conference. Unfortunately, I can’t get the videos to link properly with the presentation but you can view them separately. The file is 482MB so it may take a couple of minutes to download completely. If you have any questions or problem with the hyperlink please feel free to contact me  anytime.

The presentation is about preparing for the unexpected and discusses some lessons learned during a few recent Emergency Response Services HCT performed. Procedures are important but just having a good playbook, doesn’t mean you’re ready to take the field. There is no shame in having a fire from time to time, it’s the nature of the coal and the inherent hazards of a power plant.

What is remorseful, is when a plant is ill-prepared and gets caught with their pants down which may jeopardize the health and safety of plant personnel and Emergency Responders. Plants must be prepared for the unexpected, they must have the proper procedures which are practiced, revised, and reviewed in effort to be prepared as possible. If a plant doesn’t properly prepare and practiced they shouldn’t be awestruck when they fall short of their expectations.

About the Author

Justin Clift is the Industrial Market Manager for Hazard Control Technologies, headquartered in Fayetteville, GA.  He is originally from Ohio and transferred to Georgia to start working for HCT shortly after graduating from Ohio State University in 2005.
Justin Clift
Mr. Clift provides loss control solutions for the power industry, specializing in fire detection, suppression, and prevention. He also conducts class room training for emergency responders on the hazard of combustible dust and silo fire fighting through the use of piercing rods and a micelle encapsulating agent.

Justin has visited hundreds of industrial facilities and has first-hand experience extinguishing coal fires throughout the US, as HCT Emergency Response Team’s Incident Commander. He has also worked side by side with engineering and plant personnel, specifying upgrades to the plant’s fire protection system utilizing F-500 concentrate control systems.

Frequently Justin is asked to assist in the development of emergency response procedures, specifically applicable to the handling of a combustible dust. He is often called-upon to speak at industry meetings and events that focus on power generation and industrial safety, and on the hazards associated with combustible dust. Contact Information: Justin Clift , Industrial Marker Manager, Hazard Control Technologies C: 770-318-1805 O: 770-512-5112 E:

Over 17,000 combustible dust related fires (1980-2005) USA


Extrapolating NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research Division estimates  from the report "Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities," provides in-depth insight into combustible dust related fire statistics in manufacturing facilities from the 2006-2010 period. Subsequently, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute noted over 17,000 combustible dust related fires in the twenty-five year period 1980-2005 while extrapolating the 2006-2010 data. Dust, fiber, or lint (including sawdust) was the item first ignited in 12% of 5,670 manufacturing facility fires/ (2006-2010) annual average. Data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the NFPA annual fire department experience survey was utilized in compiling NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Division estimates.

The educational NFPA report provides valuable insight into area of origin, heat source, factors contributing to ignition, and equipment involved in ignition (EII). For example, the leading factor contributing to ignition was mechanical failure or malfunction. Regarding heat sources, the leading factor was unclassified heat from powered equipment followed by radiated or conducted heat from operating equipment.

                                Manufacturing Facility Fires (2006) Source: NFIRS 5.0 USFA

To assist stakeholders in understanding the modules in the NFIRS reporting system here is a list of several elements regarding ignition with their pages from the NFIRS 5.0 Reference Guide. Note: This is a large file (9.7  mb) and may take considerable time to download on slower connections.

Area of Fire Origin 4-13

Heat Source  4-17
Operating Equipment
Hot or Smoldering Object
Other Open Flame or Smoking Materials
Chemical, Natural Heat Sources
Heat Spread From Another Fire. Excludes operating equipment.
            Other Heat Sources
Item First Ignited 4-19
Cause of Ignition 4-24
Factors Contributing to Ignition 4-25
Mechanical Failure, Malfunction
Electrical Failure, Malfunction
Design, Manufacturing, Installation Deficiency
Operational Deficiency
Equipment Involved in Ignition 4-29
Shop Tools and Industrial Equipment

Manufacturing establishments diminished from 373,000 (1990) to 332,000 (2007), a 11% decrease in manufacturing facilities. In a ten year trend of nonresidential fires (1992-2001) there was a 21% decease in fires. (page 119 .pdf)
Nonresidential Fires (1992-2001)
USFA and U.S. Census Bureau statistics depicting decreases in nonresidential fires and manufacturing establishments illustrates a higher number of annual fires in the 25 year period (1980-2005) than in the more recent (2006-2010) time-frame. As a result, the 680 combustible dust related fires annual average (2006-2010) would extrapolate into even more annual incidents from 1980-2005.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Manufacturing Establishments (2001-2011)
Very Unusual Trend

U.S. Fire Administration: Fire Estimates. Manufacturing Fires Drop 38% (2007-2010) From 6,200 (2007) to 3,900 (2010), during the same period nonresidential fires drop 18%. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated the number of manufacturing establishments dropped 7%. So has incidents of combustible dust related fires and explosions also dropped 38% in the 2007-2010 time frame?

NFIRS is not representative of all fire incidents in the United States and is not a census of fire incidents or casualties. For example,  NFIRS is a voluntary system, and it includes only those fire incidents reported to the system by fire departments that report to NFIRS. Also, not all States participate in NFIRS, and all fire departments that report to NFIRS within a State do not necessarily report all of their fire incidents. Additionally, some fire departments that report fire incidents do not report associated casualties. States and/or fire departments that report in one particular year may not report to NFIRS the following year.

Partial list of Federal Government organizations (page 12 .pdf) that use NFIRS: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Military Services (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy), U.S. Commerce Department, National Institute on Standards and Technology, Center for Fire, Research, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Congress, House Basic Research Subcommittee, U.S. Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Library of Congress, etc.
  • NFIRS is the world's largest, national, annual database of fire incident information.
  • 50 states and the District of Columbia report NFIRS data.
  • 37 fire departments with a population protected of over 500,000 participate in the NFIRS.
  • About 23,000 fire departments report in the NFIRS each year.
  • The NFIRS database comprises 75 percent of all reported fires that occur annually.

Like many of the above governmental organizations, why didn’t the OSHA Directorates use NFIRS fire incident data when developing the OSHA Combustible Dust ANPRM for the rulemaking process? Only relying on incomplete CSB incident data (281 incidents 1980-2005) does not provide stakeholders enough information so as to understand the complexities and magnitude of the combustible dust fire problem in the USA manufacturing sector. As a result of solely using CSB incident data, the definition of combustible dust is explicitly in “suspension” and ignores layered combustible dust related fires (dust not in suspension). So what do you think, should we continue to ignore combustible dust related fires not in suspension?


NFPA's "Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities"
NFIRS Reporting Form
Uses of NFIRS
NFIRS 5.0 Reference Guide 
Nonresidential Building Fires (USFA) page 75 Mfg. Buildings
Nonresidential Fire Trend 2006-2010
OSHA Combustible Dust; Advance notice of proposed rulemaking

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Error in OSHA Combustible Dust; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Reviewing the OSHA advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) creates quite a concern. For example in the second sentence of the "Summary" at the top of the page, "For the purposes of this notice, the term "combustible dust" includes all combustible particulate solids of any size, shape, or chemical composition that could present a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or other oxidizing medium"

So for combustible dust to be hazard it must be suspended in air? What about smoldering layers of dust which also fire and explosion hazards? Before dust can be in suspension it first must be layered on horizontal surfaces. Personnel have been fatally and severely injured from smoldering dust initially not in suspension. Additionally facilities have burned to the ground due to layers of dust.

The problem of OSHA defining combustible dust solely in suspension became readily apparent when trade associations submitted comments in response to the ANPRM requesting their NAICS be removed from "Table 1--Industries Having at Least One Recorded Combustible Dust Incident Reported Since 1980," since combustible dust incidents at facilities they represented were dust layered fires and not in suspension. Was the Dust Incident table (page 43 .pdf) listing severity of consequences (Kst's) instead of NAICS, during a topic of discussion at the 2011 OSHA Combustible Dust Expert Forum a response to the turmoil of defining combustible dust solely in suspension?

There is no mention whatsoever in the OSHA Combustible Dust ANPRM about catastrophic combustible dust related fires as a result of layered dust not in suspension. In stark and awakening contrast, the NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Division prepared a report, "Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities" providing  insightful information regarding combustible dust related structure fires in manufacturing properties from 2006-2010. The NFPA report noted that shop tools and industrial equipment were involved in 29% of these structure fires. 

Most importantly dust, fiber, or lint (including sawdust) was the item first ignited in 12% of manufacturing facility incidents. This would equate to over 600 combustible dust related incidents annually. A vast and disturbingly revealing  difference from the 2006 CSB Dust Hazard Investigation Report identifying 281 combustible dust incidents from 1980-2005, or approximately 11 incidents annually. The educational NFPA report obtained fire incident data from the US Fire Administration's National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data in conjunction with NFPA’s annual survey of U.S. fire departments. 

Its quite alarming where our global trading partners in the IECEx Scheme and European ATEX System recognize dust layers as a fire and explosion hazard yet here in the USA we do not recognize these immediate hazards in the current combustible dust rulemaking process. Continuing to proceed in solely defining combustible dust as a hazard in suspension and ignoring dust layers will have serious consequences in the future as experienced now and in the past. Is it time for a revision of the OSHA Combustible Dust; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in accordance with reality or should we continue while in error? 

On a side note, do you know the burning behavior of your dust? Additional information on burning behavior (VDI 2263). Currently OSHA nor CSB recognizes burning behavior in evaluating combustible dust fire and explosion workplace hazards.Unfortunately, we'll have to wait for another catastrophe before burning behavior is reconized like it is amongst our international trading partners.


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