NEW REGULATORY STANDARDS AND PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS Last month, we outlined the new regulations that grain processors needed to be aware of. This included the new NFPA 652 and OSHA initiatives. This month we delve into the array of options available to control combustible dust. Grain processors need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each before choosing the smartest approach. by W Brad Carr, President, SonicAire, USA Managed vs engineered approach
These two strategies address how to control combustible dust and even though the goal is the same, the principles undergirding each approach are vastly different. Let’s examine each approach, and determine its strengths and weaknesses.
A managed approach is essentially manual housekeeping. In this scenario, third-party cleaning services or plant employees remove accumulated dust intermittently. The interval of cleaning depends on the processing and the type of particles because the more dust generated, the more frequent the cleaning required. The approach looks like this: A person gets up on a ladder (worst case scenario) or on a scissor lift and starts removing the dust from overhead structures and processing equipment. Once the dust settles on the floor it is then removed from the building. The cost of cleaning for this approach varies widely. A range of prices has been reported to me, including Larry Baker, president of Fuzion Solution, who noted that one company in the paper and pulp industry spends an average US$2.40 per square foot on manual cleaning. Another cost is for one woodworking facility, which amounted to US$0.40 per square foot. Another is a small mill that reported spending US$10,000 monthly on manual cleaning. 52 | November 2016 - Milling and Grain
So the cost is present at whatever level but the question remains: Is that a good solution for the price?
A managed approach is the status quo solution. Before technological advances were made, manual housekeeping was the only solution available. Many people find that ongoing cleaning is an attractive option because there are low upfront costs. You don’t have to invest a lot of money at one time to continue either using cleaning services or using your employees to manage combustible dust levels. What’s more, manual cleaning for combustible dust can even appear not to cost anything, as it is absorbed in operational budgets. It costs, of course, but that cost is buried, which appeals to some companies’ budgeting process. Continuing in this way just seems like less of a hassle. Manual cleaning also does not need a strategic plan, which can be viewed as a benefit. If companies do not have a capital investment plan, it can be extremely difficult to allocate the funds needed for an engineered approach. Even if the engineered solutions can show ROI for the installation, some companies can’t secure the initial investment needed. Within this framework, ongoing manual cleaning is appealing.