Thursday, March 28, 2013

California Lower Rate of Combustible Dust Related Incidents Due to FPP?

How come California with more manufacturing facilities than any other state (approx. 40,000 establishments-U.S. Census Bureau-2010) yet has a lower rate of combustible dust related incidents than any other state? Could it be that they require fire prevention plans (FPP) for all facilities whereas other states don't? Shouldn't a state with the highest number of facilities also have the highest number of incidents? Quite interesting accidentally connecting the dots between combustible dust related incidents in a preliminary analysis of 2011 NFIRS data and fire prevention plans (FPP) 29 CFR 1910.39.

It’s back to school for us all after coming across this helpful resource with the University of California Riverside's Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) providing an excellent framework with FPP key elements as required by the California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 8, Section 3221. The detailed FPP document includes a section on Fire Extinguishers where "all faculty and staff are annually provided the opportunity to receive hands-on training and experience in using portable fire extinguishers."

California is one of the approved State Plan States that went beyond minimum federal OSHA regulatory requirements concerning FPP's (Exemptions. 1910.157(b)(1))  For example, California facilities not requiring the immediate and total evacuation of employees from the workplace upon the sounding of a fire alarm signal are required to have a Fire Prevention Plan (CCR Title 8, Section 3221).

Whereas Federal OSHA states don’t require a Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) in this scenario unless the facility follows under one of these three host standards: Ethylene Oxide, 1910.104, Methylenedianiline, 1910.1050, and 1,3 Butadiene, 1910.105. Additionally FPP required where the written fire safety policy requiring the immediate and total evacuation of employees from the workplace upon the sounding of a fire alarm signal.

With a bit of imagination the University of California Riverside's Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) provides an excellent framework for a voluntary FPP’s which should include controlling ignition and fuel sources in the prevention of combustible dust fires and explosions. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) did not make any FPP recommendations in the 2006 Dust Hazard Study. As a result OSHA has not recognized FPP in the 2008 Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP), 2009 Combustible Dust Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 2011 OSHA Combustible Dust Expert Forum, nor on the OSHA Combustible Dust Hazards webpage. The Democrat Committee Education and the Workforce has acknowledged this error with the reintroduction of the proposed bill, "H.R. 691 Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires in the Workplace," where 40% of the requirements in the bill are from content in the OSHA Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) 29 CFR 1910.39.

Fire prevention plans (FPP) are an excellent administrative and procedural control measure in minimizing the probability of occurrence of future combustible dust related incidents by managing and controlling potential ignition and fuel sources. Without FPP's  combustible dust related incidents will continue to occur in an unabated manner. The majority of combustible dust related incidents are "near misses" precursors to catastrophe. As a result combustible dust hazards are primarily a fire issue and secondarily a potential explosion problem.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Proposed Combustible Dust Bill Relationship to OSHA Regulations

Proposed Combustible Dust Legislation H.R. 691,Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act of 2013. Presentation illustrates relationship of proposed combustible dust bill with OSHA regulations. Approximately 40% of the requirements are mirrored from content in the OSHA Fire Prevention Plan 1910.39 in addition to approximately 50% of content analogous to OSHA's Process Safety Management 1910.119 regulations.

Many of the NFPA combustible dust standards also include elements of Process Safety Management (PSM) such as management of change (MOC), accident investigations, contractor training, etc. Additionally elements in the requirements of the proposed bill include: Hazard Assessment 1910.132, Hazard Communication (HazCom) 1910.1200, Process Safety Management (PSM) 1910.119, Lock-out/Tag-out (LOTO)1910.147, and Hot Work 190.252.

The proposed reintroduced legislation fails to address in the "findings" the importance of training, education, outreach, inspections, and enforcement at the local jurisdictional level with the I-Codes such as the International Building Code and International Fire Code which reference the NFPA combustible dust standards. There exponentially  more local building and fire inspectors conducting plan review, permit approval, and inspections than the limited resources of OSHA inspectors working out of distant area offices. Fires can never be effectively regulated at the federal level since fire prevention and protection is a local issue. A cohesive collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies would be a equitable solution in addressing the contentious and complex subject of combustible dust fire and explosion hazards in H-2 High-Hazard occupancies which appear to many as benign deflagration hazards with the continued occurrence of "near misses" throughout all sectors

YouTube video on slide #2 is Representative George Miller (D), Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, making a statement during floor debate on HR 5522, the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act, on April 30, 2008. The bill passed in the House of Representatives April 30, 2008, 6:56 p.m. with a 247/165 simple majority vote but was never passed by the Senate.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

OSHA Fire Prevention Plans (FPP) & Hazard Assessments Ignored by Many

Figure 6. Number of Combustible Dust Related Violations

Figure 6. "Number of Combustible Dust Related Violations" OSHA Status Report on Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) does not even note any combustible dust related violations for "1910.39 Fire prevention plans." How odd especially with requirements of a written plan on proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials, potential ignition sources and their control, and the type of fire protection equipment necessary to control each major hazard. In addition to procedures to control accumulations of flammable and combustible waste materials in conjunction with procedures for regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment to prevent the accidental ignition of combustible materials.” I guess combustible dust is not considered a combustible waste material nor a hazardous material?

Congressional Proposed Interim Standard
Since OSHA 1910.39 Fire prevention plans have been ignored regarding combustible dust hazards they will now be included in the reintroduced combustible dust legislation "Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act of 2013," for an OSHA interim combustible dust standard. Elements in an interim standard will include:

(2)written program that includes provisions for hazardous dust inspection, testing, hot work, ignition control, and housekeeping, including the frequency and method or methods used to minimize accumulations of combustible dust on ledges, floors, equipment, and other exposed surfaces.

(3) Requirements for engineering controls, administrative controls, and operating procedures, including means to control fugitive dust emissions and ignition sources, and the safe use and maintenance of process equipment and dust collection systems and filters.

(4) Requirements for workplace inspection and housekeeping to prevent accumulation of combustible dust in places of employment in such depths that it can present explosion, deflagration, or other fire hazards, including safe methods of dust removal.

(6) Requirements to provide written safety and health information and annual training to managers and employees and their representatives, including housekeeping procedures, hot work procedures, preventive, predictive, and periodic maintenance procedures, common ignition sources, and lock-out, tag-out procedure.

NOTE: OSHA Fire Prevention Plans (FPP) only required if all of your employees evacuate immediately during a fire emergency (page 15 .pdf) or if one of these three host standards apply: CFR 1910.1047(h)(1)(iii): Ethylene Oxide, CFR 1910.1050(d)(1)(iii): Methylenedianiline, or CFR 1910.1051(j): 1,3-Butadiene.

Additionally no mention in the 2009 OSHA Status Report on Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program regarding combustible dust related violations in failure to have a certified written Hazard assessment 1910.132(d)(1) “The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present...” Legislators did not forget that one either in the reintroduced combustible dust legislation with (1) Requirements for hazard assessment to identify, evaluate, and control combustible dust hazards.

OSHA Citations: Fire Prevention Plans (FPP) and Certified Hazard Assessments
Question is how can there be hundreds of combustible dust related incidents annually with over 500 in 2011 according  to a CDPI preliminary analysis of NFIRS data, if the required OSHA written Fire Prevention Plans (FPP) and certified Hazard Assessments plans are adhered to? Is it just a paper chase and stakeholders doing nothing more than filing the required written plans in the office file cabinet?

Federal OSHA citations for the period October 2011 through September 2012 in the Lumber And Wood Products industries, (Except Furniture) there was no Federal OSHA citations for 1910.39 - Fire prevention plans (FPP). With the over 500 ComDust related incidents in 2011 according to a preliminary NFIRS analysis, the Lumber And Wood Products industries experienced over 16% of the incidents. How can there be so many incidents yet in the same vein FPP is adhered to regarding regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment to prevent the accidental ignition of combustible materials?

This observation is not meant to solely pick on the Lumber And Wood Products as there are dozens of other diverse industries handling combustible particulate solids. For example out of the over 12,700 Federal OSHA citations at 2,419 facilities in the manufacturing sector from October 2011 through September 2012, only two (2) Federal OSHA citations for 1910.39 - Fire prevention plans (FPP)  So the odds of receiving an OSHA citation for FPP in that time period was 0.016% out of the nearly 13,000 citations. 

The problem is intensified when viewing the OSHA website  on combustible dust hazards where, "Federal OSHA standards are mandatory; they include provisions that address certain aspects of combustible dust hazards. Some are industry-wide and others and industry-specific." No mention at all regarding certified written hazard assessment 1910.132(d)(1) nor any note of 1910.39 Fire prevention plans. Additionally, in the OSHA ComDust NEP  numerous OSHA CPL's listed in the reference section yet CPL 2-1.037, Compliance Policy for Emergency Action Plans and Fire Prevention Plans excluded. Wouldn't it be prudent for all global stakeholders to implement the protections of  hazard assessments and fire protection plans now instead of waiting for the results of proposed combustible dust legislation and regulations? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Building Signage Communicating Hazards Will Save Lives

Truss Signage

International Fire Code (2012) Appendix J - Building Information Sign, provides excellent guidance in communicating high-hazard occupancies to fire crews responding to combustible dust related fires and explosions. Many fire departments are not aware of the inherent special risk of a HazMat nature when responding to these types of incidents. The situation is especially critical with lack of resources for many jurisdictions in conducting pre-site visits as outlined in NFPA 1620 Standard for Pre-Incident Planning.

Truss signage,” is an excellent example currently implemented in numerous jurisdictions throughout the nation in preventing injures and fatalities of fire-fighters due to truss system failures. Similar signage as referenced in the International Fire Code (2012) and NFPA 704 will effectively communicate hazards to fire departments responding to facility combustible dust related incidents.

“Fire Chief did not receive an MSDS sheet from facility until the next day. Fire Chief added that if he had the MSDS sheet at the time of the incident his tactical decisions would have been different.” –excerpt accident report. This example illustrates if High-Hazard H-2 occupancy signage was affixed to the outside of buildings, fire crews would know upon arriving at the fireground that deflagration hazards are present. NFPA 704 signage produces similar results. A flammable vapor cloud explosion (VCE) is not much different than the severity of a wood dust deflagration as both involve damaging pressures waves followed by slower moving flame fronts of destructive flammable gases.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

21st Century National Phenomena, Combustible Dust Fires and Explosions?

Photo Credit: Sebastian Ritter

1973 Report of the President's Commission on Fire Prevention and Control "In pursuit of answers, the Commission has held hearings in five widely scattered cities, heard the testimony of more than 100 witnesses filling thousands of pages of transcript, and spent countless hours learning and deliberating in both formal and informal sessions.”

"In addition, special studies have been prepared by Commission staff and by a dozen experts from government and private groups exploring particular problems and their alternative solutions. Over 130 position papers were filed with the Commission advocating different approaches to the fire problem."

Fire and the Built Environment in Chapters 8-12 of the America Burning report notes fire hazards of Flammable Fabrics, Fireworks, Transport of Hazardous Materials, Aircraft Fire Safety, Marine Fire Safety, Motor Vehicle Safety, and Railroad Transportation Fire Safety. In contrast, combustible dust fire and explosion hazards were excluded from the report.

Fifteen years later, in 1987 a national workshop was held in Virginia on America Burning Revisited where again no reference to combustible dust fire and explosion hazards in the built environment. Ironically the OSHA Grain Handling Facilities Final Rule was published fours weeks after the national workshop on December 31, 1987.

Why is there a national disconnect between combustible dust related fires and catastrophic dust explosions? Eliminating combustible dust related fire hazards (heat, fuel, or oxygen) prevents a catastrophic combustible dust explosion or flash fire from even occurring. All five of the catastrophic combustible dust explosions the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) completed accident investigations on had a history of "near miss" non-consequential combustible dust related fires.


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