Advance Preparation Helps Assuage the Devastating Effects of an Industrial Dust Explosion

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Mitigating the impact of dust explosions begins with a proactive approach that includes a professional risk assessment and business continuity planning.

Risk analyses are really a form of insurance. They give top executives the peace of mind that they are operating their plants safely¾not only preventing potential loss of life but also protecting their assets and valuable process revenue from dust explosions

With current statistical calculations showing that an average of 2-3 dust explosions occur in various manufacturing facilities in the U.S. per day, every top corporate executive at an at-risk facility has a responsibility to proactively attack the issue in advance before a devastating incident or event occurs.

Any company that handles powders and bulk solids is susceptible. Such industries include pulp and paper, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles (cotton), and milling operations. Even foodstuffs such as sugar, flour and cocoa can act as explosives under the right conditions. Almost all organic material, when in a dust cloud, will ignite at a temperature below 500 °C ¾ approximately the same temperature as a newly extinguished match.

However, despite the significant and very real risks of dust explosions, which include the initial blast, secondary fires, loss of life, and significant loss of process revenue, many corporate officers act like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, and ignore the issue altogether.

Instead, a proactive and aggressive stance is required to assuage the consequences of a dust explosion that includes: 1) a professionally-conducted risk analysis assessment; and 2) business continuity planning to help sustain the enterprise in the event an explosion should occur.

Professional risk analysis

A professionally-conducted risk analysis can identify many potential sources of dust explosions before they occur.

"You can't completely eliminate the danger, but a risk analysis can certainly reduce probability and severity of an industrial dust explosion," says David Cvetas, President of Cv Technology (http://www.cvtechnology.com), a prominent dust explosion protection consulting company.

"Risk analyses are really a form of insurance. They give top executives the peace of mind that they are operating their plants safely¾not only preventing potential loss of life but also protecting their assets and valuable process revenue from dust explosions," adds Cvetas.

Strapped for the in-house manpower, or expertise, many top executives turn to specialized consultants and technology vendors such as Cv Technology to help them develop a dust explosion prevention and protection strategy.

Once the Risk Analysis is completed, the industrial dust explosion prevention alternatives can be fully explored. According to Cvetas, today's “non-intrusive” technologies are relatively inexpensive and enable the safe venting of process-driven dust explosions.

Business Continuity Planning

In tandem with a risk analysis survey, top management should also develop a business continuity plan.

Business continuity planning is the process by which an organization plans to continue operations, regardless of any calamitous event. The plan serves to make an event appear transparent to the organization's customers so they never see a blip in the delivery of goods or services.

"Every top corporate officer, or CEO, needs to have a thorough business-impact analysis so that they understand just how and where their enterprise is vulnerable. If there are vulnerabilities, they need to determine what strategies will mitigate or control those vulnerabilities," says Cvetas.

Other areas of advanced preparation include emergency response to stabilize the situation following an incident; ongoing dust explosion protection awareness and training programs; public relations and crisis coordination; and plans for communicating with employees, customers, suppliers and stockholders during a crisis.

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Bill Stevenson
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