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  • Writer's pictureRotary Airlock


A little over 11 1/2 years ago on February 7, 2008, the Imperial Sugar Company manufacturing facility in Port Wentworth, Georgia was home to the most significant local tragedy to date. Fourteen workers were killed, and 36 others sustained severe burns and injuries after a reactive chain of sugar dust explosions.

In the investigation report, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) found that the dust explosion had started in the enclosed conveyor system below the sugar silos. The initial blast stirred up sugar dust that had built up on the floors and other surfaces, causing a devastating chain reaction of additional dust explosions racing through the buildings. Then fires resulting from the explosions destroyed packing buildings, silos, a palleting building and severely damaged parts of the refinery and sugar loading area. The investigation conducted by the CSB highlighted numerous safety concerns where dust explosions were a severe risk and thus provided a list of recommendations to ensure that such fires and explosions wouldn't occur again.

But, what does this have to do with the OSHA or Fire Code?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) addresses dust explosion and fire prevention provisions. After several investigation reports and studies, the CSB recommended that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) develop a federal standard to address the increasing workplace hazards found in facilities. Especially where combustible solids are handled, used, or stored, which has the potential to generate or release combustible dust. It was the tragic event at the Imperial Sugar refinery that pushed this recommendation into action. OSHA later announced that they would initiate a rule-making process to develop a federal standard addressing these needs.

Fast forward a few years, and a new committee structure was put in place at the NFPA to oversee the standards-making process for these documents related to dust hazards. As a result, NFPA Standard on the Fundamentals of Dust was born. This document provides the following two key points:

1) Basic principles of, and requirements for, identifying and

managing fires.

2) Explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solids.

This helped place the NFPA policies as the standard for fire safety, who's policies will soon be enforceable mandates instead of just suggested principles.

These NFPA principles have an impact on fire inspectors as well. It outlines operating procedures and practices; inspection, testing and maintenance of equipment; maintenance programs and procedures; training and hazard awareness; qualifications and training for contractors; emergency planning and response; management of change; documentation; and management of systems. It's the holy grail of fire safety for production facilities.

An inspector/AHJ must be aware of the provisions related to these facilities and confirm that these protection strategies & procedures are in place. They must also recognize that facilities are maintaining those safety conditions for the welfare of the facility and its worker

Rotary Airlock has an even deeper place in their heart for these safety standards. Less than 30 minutes from our facility, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) had a silo explosion that took the life of one firefighter, while causing another to lose multiple limbs. Scott V. of Rotary Airlock grew up in the same town as that ADM plant and his father retired as a Firefighter from that same firehouse. Having loved ones that not only knew the lives lost and changed that day but knowing it could have been that family member at one point, weighs heavy on the entire RA Family. That is why Rotary Airlock set out to provide the highest safety standard product we could.

Rotary Airlock engineered drop-in replacement valves that meet, and even exceed NFPA standards — paired with a proprietary seal system that eliminates combustible dust leakage, AND a direct-drive available for EVERY SINGLE make & model. Rotary Airlock has a significant focus on replacing EVERY dust-collection valve in America to do their part in the safety of every person possible.

If you ever needed a reason to replace or upgrade your dust-collectors, don't let it be when lives are lost or families are changed forever. Start improving your valves today and start saving a whole lot more than just money.

You can CALL or TEXT Rotary Airlock at (815) 564-1729

or shoot a message here to get started.

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