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Are You at Risk from Combustible Dusts? Part 2
Part 2 of 2: Five Steps to Reducing the Risk?
By Business Development Representative, Ahern Fire Protection-Special Hazards
In the last issue, we worked through the first three steps involved in understanding your combustible dust hazards. For a quick review, here are the steps we covered:
Step 1 - Get a sample of your dusts in for testing at a lab. See our resource list.
Step 2 - Identify the Process Hazards and Areas
Step 3 - Internal Team Discussion of the Findings
Now we are ready to move into Step 4 - Risk Evaluation. Risk evaluation, in many cases, requires outside help. A first call may be to your insurer to discuss your findings with one of their reviewers. Many of the larger insurers of industrial hazards have experts on staff that can guide you through a deeper understanding of the ramifications of your initial findings. They also have general guidelines dealing with these risks. Another resource is a specialty engineering firm. These firms can help you undertake a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA). Not all hazards involving combustible dust are an explosion risk. Remember, for an explosion to happen, you need to have all five of the elements listed in Part 1. Although OSHA states that you must deal with any dust found to have a Kst greater than 0, NFPA 654 (Standard for Combustible Dusts) does allow for a PHA performed by qualified personnel to take the place of explosion protection systems in systems where engineering principles can determine minimal or no risk exists. In some cases, changes to housekeeping procedures, processing equipment, and process procedures can mitigate the risk. There are also processes where it might be determined that there is very little chance of the five elements of an explosion coming together. Make sure any findings are professionally documented, and have these documents readily available should you be audited by a new insurer or OSHA.
Step 5: put the findings of your evaluation in place. Procedural changes are something you can typically handle internally through operations and engineering staff. Some process modifications can be handled by drawing in your mechanical contractor and equipment suppliers. If during the evaluation it is determined you must deal with a risk through traditional explosion venting, isolation and/or suppression covered under NFPA 654, 664, 484, 68, 69, etc., there are many options available. Again, a great resource for assistance can be your mechanical and fire protection contractor partners. To give you a better understanding of methods traditionally used, this link can get you to a resource guide: Explosion Protection Selection Guide.
Want further information regarding Special Hazards? Email Ahern directly for further information.