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LESSONS LEARNED FROM COMBUSTIBLE DUST FIRES AND EXPLOSIONS

Combustible dust fires and explosions have resulted in many process safety incidents that have caused multiple fatalities and injuries together with considerable property damage. According to the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB), 386 major incidents occurred from 1980 to 2017. They killed 178 people and injured 1021 people. The incidents came from a wide variety of industries. 

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LEARNING FROM TRAINING

In everyday life, people learn from their own and others’ experiences, mistakes, and daily activities. But what about learning when attending a training course? Remembering everything covered during a course and putting it into practice is a challenge. There is simply too much information to process in a short time and to retrieve from memory when necessary.

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IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF YOUR PHA STUDIES BY USING PROTOCOLS

Preparation is key prior to starting any task. Buildings are not constructed without blue prints. Projects are not started without first knowing you have all required items to complete tasks successfully. Performing process hazard analysis (PHA) studies shouldn't be any different. Protocols should be used to ensure all necessary information is available.

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WHAT COMPANIES SHOULD LOOK FOR IN A PROCESS SAFETY AUDITOR

Every three years, companies in the process industries must perform a compliance audit for their Process Safety Management (PSM) systems and Risk Management Programs (RMP). Many companies turn to third parties for assistance in conducting their PSM / RMP compliance audits in order to gain an outside perspective regarding implementation of PSM and RMP practices at their facility. However, companies often focus on the wrong factors in making a decision on selecting a third-party auditor. 

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A STRATEGY FOR DEVELOPING RISK REDUCTION MEASURES IN PHA

Process hazard analysis (PHA) studies identify hazard scenarios in order to determine whether or not existing safeguards need to be enhanced or new safeguards installed. Consequently, recommendations to reduce hazard scenario risks by mitigating the severity of their consequences or reducing their likelihood must be developed.

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HAZARDS OF COLD WEATHER PROCESS OPERATIONS

When outdoor air temperatures drop, it is important for process plants to be prepared for safety challenges posed by cold weather. Low temperatures may affect piping, other equipment, and instrumentation. Cold weather vulnerabilities may result in process safety incidents.

The US Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB’s) Safety Digest, Preparing Equipment and Instrumentation for Cold Weather Operations, addresses this topic.

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WHAT COMPANIES SHOULD LOOK FOR IN A PHA FACILITATOR

One of the most important aspects of a sound PSM program is having a high-quality process hazard analysis (PHA) completed for your covered processes. Many companies turn to third parties for assistance in leading and facilitating their PHAs due to the specialized nature of facilitating PHAs. However, companies may not consider the most important factors when selecting a third-party PHA facilitator. 

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FIELD TOUR FOR PHA

In conducting a PHA for an existing process, it is good practice for the PHA team to conduct a field tour of the process being reviewed. However, the PHA team leader may encounter resistance from team members, especially for a PHA being conducted for an older process for which previous PHAs have been conducted. Team leaders need to be prepared to deal with such resistance and be able to provide guidance to the team on what to look for during a field tour.

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DAMAGE MECHANISM REVIEWS AND PROCESS HAZARD ANALYSIS

          It has become apparent that some equipment damage mechanisms may be overlooked in the performance of PHA studies. Table 1 provides examples of process safety incidents that resulted from such causes. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health within the California Department of Industrial Relations has amended its process safety management (PSM) regulations for petroleum refineries in California to include requirements for conducting damage mechanism reviews (DMRs) to be addressed in PHA studies. Also, API Recommended Practice (RP) 571, Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed Equipment in the Refining Industry, addresses the subject.

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HOW TO PERFORM DUST RISK ASSESSMENT

NFPA 652-2016, Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, provides the basic principles of and requirements for identifying and managing the fire and explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solids. The standard is intended to provide the minimum general requirements necessary to manage the fire, flash fire, and explosion hazards posed by combustible dusts and directs the user to other NFPA standards for industry-specific and commodity-specific requirements.

The standard contains requirements for dust hazards analysis (DHA) which is a systematic review to identify and evaluate the potential fire, flash fire, or explosion hazards associated with the presence of combustible particulate solids in a process or facility. DHA is part of a prescriptive approach to combustible dust safety but a performance-based approach can be used which relies of a dust risk assessment (DRA). 

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