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Four takeaways from Dust Safety Week 2021

June 25, 2021  By  Ellen Cools

Dust Safety Week 2021 comes to an end today after a week of jam-packed content focused on dust safety best practices, research, equipment and more to help keep operations and operators safe.

Here are four key takeaways from this week:

1) Complacency is a killer

David Murray, co-chairperson of the Manufacturing Advisory Group and the corporate safety, HR and environment manager for Gorman Group, kicked off Dust Safety Week 2021 with an article about preventing dust complacency in the face of competing risks. High-severity but latent hazards are destined to fall off the radar, he said. But, “there are ways to catch lightning in a bottle and maintain control over these risks.” Check out these three complacency-busting tips.

Rembe’s Jeramy Slaunwhite also picked up on this theme, writing that, when it comes to combustible dust explosion protection, “good enough” is not good enough. Explosion protection concepts and systems are only as reliable as their weakest link. “If corners are cut or something is overlooked, it can not only result in a hazardous situation, but also create a false sense of security under the perception of complete, reliable protection.”


Rose Keefe, with Dust Safety Science, took readers back to 1919, when, in a span of five months, four combustible dust incidents in four North American cities took place. She outlined the causes of each event and identified commonalities that can help prevent similar tragedies in the future. The parallels between the events in 1919, just when World War I had ended and in the midst of the Spanish Flu, and the current COVID-19 pandemic, are obvious, and the overall message is clear: as we return to more normal operating conditions and see more workers on site, along with new hires, safety must remain a priority. The changes cannot allow us to lose focus on fire and explosion dangers.

2) Prepare for the worst

One of the best ways to ensure operators and operations do not become complacent is by following best practices, such as the ones outlined by Michele Dyer with the BC Forest Safety Council about fibre pile management. Wood fibre piles, if not managed correctly, can pose a significant fire risk, as microbial growth and biological activity can occur, causing the piles to self-heat over time and triggering combustion, she explained. Consequently, effective management of wood piles and good safety planning is critical. She lays out some best practices for fibre pile storage and control measures to follows.

Another way is to understand what is required of you when conducting a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA). Brian Edwards, explosion protection consultancy manager for Fike, answered the top five FAQs when it comes to DHAs, including the difference between dust combustibility testing and a DHA, and when a DHA should be completed in the design phase for new projects.

An upcoming webinar, part of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), WorkSafeBC and Canadian Biomass’ Safety Foundation Webinar Series, will also focus on best practices – this time, the best practices for managing combustible dust. The webinar, “Safe handling and storage of biomass, part II,” presented by Jeff Mycroft, regional sales manager at Fike Canada, will focus on the hazards associated with combustible dust, hazard assessment and hazard control and management.

Preparing for the worst also means knowing what to do when an explosive incident happens, not if it happens. VETS Sheet Metal’s Francis Petit, P.Eng., and Erin Rayner provided an overview of blast zones and a few key points to remember when establishing effective blast zones.

3) Standards set the bar

Proper dust safety management also requires an understanding of the applicable safety standards. Biomass Engineering & Equipment’s Joel Dulin gave readers an in-depth look at NFPA 664, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosion in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facility, which was updated in 2020. Although the NFPA doesn’t require operations to be compliant with the revised 664 standard immediately, it does require compliance within a structured timeline, he explains. The code applies retroactively to new and existing facilities, and, therefore, every operation must understand what it requires of them.

Jeffrey Nicholas, managing partner at Industrial Fire Prevention, LLC, also outlined the NFPA standards that apply when classifying combustible dusts and hazardous locations: NFPA 499 and NFPA 70. He also discussed the engineering principle and principle of design outlined in NFPA 664, among other engineering controls.

4) Know your options

Finally, as always, having the right equipment is critical to keeping your facilities as safe as possible. We published our latest equipment spotlight on dust collection and suppression technology. This list includes brief description and photos of some of the latest designs and solutions available to Canadian wood pellet plants and sawmills.

Safety learning never stops

All of these feature stories and more are available year-round on our Dust Safety Week landing page, which will continue to serve as the place to find best practices and information on dust safety.

Thank you to our Dust Safety Week 2021 sponsors and safety partners VETS Sheet Metal, Fagus GreCon, Biomass Engineering & Equipment, and Fike.

Want to get involved in Dust Safety Week 2022? Email Ellen Cools at ecools@annexbusinessmedia.com.

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