NEW REGULATORY STANDARDS AND PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS From 1980-2005, an estimated 119 deaths have occurred in the US alone, as a result of combustible dust explosions, with feed and grain as one of the leading industries experiencing explosions
by W Brad Carr, President, SonicAire, USA
his is the first of a two-part series to help grain and feed processors understand the new actions proposed by NFPA 652, the latest. The second part of the series will examine the spectrum of dust control options available, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative. In all situations, it is always dangerous if you don’t know what you don’t know. This is especially true of combustible dust because in this case, ignorance is not bliss. In fact, it is deadly. The risks from fugitive combustible dust continue to remain high for grain processors. Fugitive dust accumulates, forming a combustible cloud that results in explosions that destroy facilities and/or injure or kill employees. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event. The latest statistics on combustible dust explosions is chilling. Over a 25-year period in the US from 1980-2005, there have been: 281 combustible dust incidents, 718 injuries and 119 deaths. From 2008-2012 there have been another 50 accidents reported. Whilst these dust incidents occur throughout many industries, feed and grain is one of the leading industries experiencing explosions. In February of this year, an explosion at the Rockmart Feed Mill
56 | October 2016 - Milling and Grain
in Atlanta, Georgia killed one person and injured five others. The tragic irony of this incident is that the plant had been reviewed by OSHA in 2013 after a small dust explosion, and had subsequent annual on-site inspections. Nevertheless, feed dust continued to accumulate between the inspections and consequently caused the disastrous explosion. A witness described to WSB-TV in Atlanta, that the sound was as loud as a “sonic boom or an earthquake.” Similarly, in June 2016, OSHA fined High Country Elevators Inc. US$51,920 for several issues including combustible dust accumulation above 1/8. These are just two examples of unnecessary tragedy and expense, as a result of a lack of collective knowledge or concern for compliance – or perhaps both. Regulatory agencies have responded with issuing higher fines and new standards. No one wants more accidents. But there remains a gap in knowledge and I am writing to fill that gap.
NFPA releases new standards
In August 2015, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) published a new standard on combustible dust: NFPA 652. It is designed to supply unifying standards and principles across industries. Currently, the draft of NFPA 652 is in review for possible edits. Although a second revision is scheduled to be released in January