Jan 07

OSHA VPP Success Story

OSHA VPP Success StoryIn our ongoing series of posts highlighting companies that have taken extra steps to satisfy Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety requirements in their Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a cooperative program that recognizes employers and employees who proactively prevent worksite injuries and illnesses, here we look at Tecton Products, LLC.

In 2011, the custom fiberglass pultrusions designer and manufacturer’s Fargo, ND, location achieved VPP recognition through its commitment to continuous improvement in workplace safety and health.

Having already earned North Dakota’s first Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) designation for its safety and health management systems in 2005, Tecton Products formed a project team in 2009 to begin documenting the company’s efforts in pursuit of VPP recognition. Following OSHA’s VPP onsite evaluation in February 2011, Tecton was approved as a VPP Star site in August 2011. Due to its commitment to VPP, Tecton let its SHARP status expire in March 2011.

Through the VPP program, Tecton commits to a proactive approach to safety and health management while maintaining injury and illness rates below the industry average. The company’s historical injury and illness rates have been significantly below the national average for its industry.

Between 2008 and 2010 alone, Tecton’s “Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART)” incident rate was 78 percent below the national average for its industry. The average VPP worksite has a DART case rate of 52 percent below the average for its industry. During the same period, Tecton’s Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR) was 20 percent below the national average for its industry.

Jan 04

OSHA Dust Classifications and Industrial Vacuum Systems

The health and safety issue of combustible dusts reached its apex back in 2009, when the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released their National Emphasis Program NEP on combustible dust. The NEP was released in order to focus attention on the agency’s efforts to mitigate dust-related explosions. Part of the NEP standard 1910.307(b) posted stipulations about the use of electric industrial vacuums in areas where combustible dust accumulates. This standard is defined by NFPA 70 from the National Electrical Code.

An explosion proof industrial vacuum / dust ignition proof vacuum or a combustible dust safe pneumatic industrial vacuum should meet requirements for use in the OSHA dust classifications of: Class 1, Group D and Class II, Groups E, F, and G.

For more information on industrial vacuum filters, including how to select the right media for the material you are picking up, please contact us or visit the DEMARCO Vacuum Accessories page.

Summary of Class I, II, III Hazardous Locations*






I Gases, vapors, and liquids (Art. 501) A: Acetylene
B: Hydrogen, etc.
C: Ether, etc.
D: Hydrocarbons, fuels, solvents, etc.
Normally explosive and hazardous Not normally present in an explosive concentration (but may accidentally exist)
II Dusts (Art. 502) E: Metal dusts (conductive,*and explosive)
F: Carbon dusts (some are conductive,* and all are explosive)
G: Flour, starch, grain, combustible plastic or chemical dust (explosive)
Ignitable quantities of dust normally are or may be in suspension, or conductive dust may be present Dust not normally suspended in an ignitable concentration (but may accidentally exist). Dust layers are present.
III Fibers and flyings (Art. 503) Textiles, wood-working, etc. (easily ignitable, but not likely to be explosive) Handled or used in manufacturing Stored or handled in storage (exclusive of manufacturing)

These industrial vacuums should include vacuum features such as motor, switches, filters, and inner chambers that are designed specifically for use in combustible dust applications or situations. In addition, an explosion proof vacuum should have a graduated filtration system that traps and keeps the combustible dust particles from moving out of the equipment back into the air. A HEPA filter is most often used in order to clean the exhaust of the vacuum. High quality HEPA filters provide a strong defense for prevention of small dust particles escaping back out into the air.

For companies that must regularly handle the removal of combustible dust, an explosion proof industrial vacuum is a smart investment. Before purchasing, however, research is a must – ensuring the right machine is matched to each specific situation. When matched properly, the right machine can be matched to the needs of the company in question, ensuring proper plant safety.

Dec 23

OSHA VPP: Silica Dust Control

Silica Dust ControlThe control of airborne silica is a constant challenge in sand casting foundries, where large volumes of sand are used in the molding processes. Kennedy Valve Foundry, a sand cast iron foundry in Elmira, N.Y., developed an approach to the ventilation of its grinding operations that has helped overcome some of the challenges commonly associated with the control of airborne silica dust in sand casting foundries.

At Kennedy Valve, a division of McWane, Inc., more than 430 employees work to manufacture fire hydrants and valves for waterworks applications. One challenge that frequently arises in the sand foundry is the control of airborne silica resulting from the chipping and grinding of castings, particularly when portable tools are used.

Wanting to improve protection of workers against overexposure to silica at these workstations, Kennedy Valve sought a new approach to ventilation controls for portable grinding tools on sand castings nearly 3 feet wide.

With a foundry ventilation consultant, the company’s technical team identified a ventilation approach that had been demonstrated to be effective in controlling emissions from another foundry process, called air carbon-arc gouging, conducted on workbenches with steel castings. This method had been identified and documented in a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) case history.

As presented in the NIOSH case history, a tabletop booth that incorporated a wraparound design, a 3-ft. diameter turntable for casting repositioning and a unique way of introducing supply air so that it swept past the worker on both sides of the body appeared to incorporate the best features seen to date on a ventilated booth. One design characteristic of the booth that NIOSH evaluated on fume-producing processes – the use of spaced exhaust openings along flat collecting surfaces – seemed like it could create a rebounding issue when applied to grinding. Respirable-size dust follows in the low-pressure wake of the large (inertial) particles in the grinding swarf; if the large particles rebound off a solid wall, the dust will rebound with them and head toward the worker’s breathing zone.

An industrial ventilation designer working on the team offered a way to address this issue. The designer, who is also a firearms instructor, cited the method of stopping air-rifle pellets using an energy-absorbing hanging curtain.

“In this case, if the grinding swarf impacted a hanging curtain, the large particles would be stopped ‘in their tracks’ and be unable to rebound. The fine dust particles at that point would be pressed up against the curtain,” according to a company case study. “If vertical dividers were employed to restrict sideways air motion, the fine dust could be readily directed through suction into exhaust plenums both above and below the impact zone for the grinding swarf and be removed from the bench.”

After successful completion of a prototype test program, 15 production booths were constructed and installed in the renovated finishing area. The benches have consistently controlled silica exposures during grinding to below OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Level for Kennedy Valve’s grinding needs when operating at exhaust rates down to 3,000 CFM and supply airflow rates at half of that flow rate.

Dec 02

OSHA VPP Success Story: Tesoro’s Mandan Oil Refinery

Tesoro's Mandan Oil RefineryIn our ongoing series of posts highlighting companies that have taken extra steps to satisfy Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety requirements in their Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a cooperative program that recognizes employers and employees who proactively prevent worksite fatalities, injuries and illnesses, here we look at Tesoro’s Mandan oil refinery.

Located in Mandan, N.D., the refinery manufactures gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heavy fuel oils and liquefied petroleum gas, of which most are shipped via pipeline to the eastern part of the state and Minnesota. The facility has a daily capacity of 58,000 barrels, processing mainly low-sulfur domestic crude oil.

By focusing on continuously improving its workplace safety and health, the refinery has experienced a 45 percent reduction in injury and illness rates since 2004. The refinery earned VPP Merit recognition in August 2007, and in January 2011, it was designated a Star site, the highest level of recognition offered by OSHA’s VPP. A VPP Star site maintains employee injury and illness rates below the national average for its industry.

Part of the Mandan site’s safety successes can be attributed to its “Triangle of Prevention System” (TOP) incident investigation program, a worker-driven and company-supported safety and health program. The TOP program is a system-based safety program that uses a three-pronged attack on hazards in the workplace by identifying failures in the system, making recommendations to correct these types of failures and tracking the recommendations to completion.

Among the site’s other notable efforts are its emergency preparedness and response teams, proactive hazard analysis systems and employee training systems.

Nov 12

Be Aware of OSHA Guidelines for Combustible Dust Mitigation

Be Aware of OSHA Guidelines for Combustible Dust MitigationOne of the worst-case scenarios for a business owner is an industrial accident causing property damage or personal injury to workers. One possibility could be an industrial accident caused by combustible dust, or tiny airborne particulates that can suddenly explode under the particular circumstances.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines combustible dust as: “Any finely divided solid material that is 420 microns or smaller in diameter (material passing a U.S. No. 40 Standard Sieve) and presents a fire or explosion hazard when dispersed and ignited in air.” Some typically well-known sources of combustible dust include: wheat grain, powdered sugar, lactose, powdered aluminum, and plastic resins.

As leaders in industrial hazard mitigation, we’ve been championing the practice of routine dust removal by vacuuming for years. Recently, in this space, we’ve even been blogging about the subject to get the word out. Here are a few examples:

The threat of a combustible dust accident is so alarming that the U.S. government has also gone to great lengths to educate the private sector about ways that businesses can mitigate the risks of one occurring. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued very detailed guidelines for combustible dust mitigation.

The latest Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB 07-31-2005) from OSHA on combustible dust, “Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions,” lays out the agency’s oversight scope in the regulation of combustible dust in the workplace. It states in part: “This Safety and Health Information Bulletin is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations … Pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan … Employers can be cited for violating the General Duty Clause if there is a recognized hazard and they do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard.”

To help our customers understand the ramifications of the OSHA standards, we’ve put together an e-book that offers you a detailed overview of them, called Meeting OSHA Recommendations for Combustible Dust. We hope it will answer many of the questions you may have on this important topic.

Want to learn more about OSHA Guidelines?

Oct 23

OSHA VPP: Clow Valve (Foundry)

Clow Valve FoundryIn our ongoing series of posts highlighting companies that have taken extra steps to satisfy Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety requirements in their Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a cooperative program that recognizes employers and employees who proactively prevent worksite injuries and illnesses, here we look at Clow Valve, a subsidiary of McWane, Inc.

Since 1926, Clow Valve has been recognized as one of the country’s leading and most experienced manufacturers of ductile iron pipe. The company’s machine shop and metal casting facility in Oskaloosa, Iowa, manufactures fire hydrants and water valves. The metal casting facility produces gray iron, ductile iron and brass castings for valves and hydrants.

Even after decades of safety efforts – including written safety programs, training, machine guards, lockout/tagout programs and more – Clow Valve was experiencing incident rates above the national average for its industry. In 2005, the company overhauled its safety programs to incorporate core VPP elements. In 2007, Iowa OSHA’s VPP team conducted a nine-day VPP onsite audit, and Clow Valve’s metal casting facility achieved VPP Merit status.

Clow Valve’s work with on-site consultation and participation in the Iowa VPP resulted in improved workplace safety, health performance and other benefits. For instance, the metal casting facility reduced its incident rates to below the industry’s national average, and employee turnover rates fell from 89 percent in 2000 to 13 percent in 2010.

Today, commitment to safety and health is part of the company’s culture, with employees engaged and taking ownership of safety. Clow Valve is now an advocate of OSHA cooperative programs, such as VPP, and mentors other facilities seeking to enter the VPP process.

Sep 10

Grain Dust Removal: What Features Should You Look at in an Industrial Vacuum?

industrial vaccum systemGrain dust is highly combustible and can burn or flare up if enough becomes airborne or accumulates on a surface and finds an ignition source. To help reduce or eliminate accumulations of ignitable dusts inside a plant or facility, industrial vacuums are the ideal solution for efficient and effective cleaning.

The amount of grain dust accumulation necessary to cause a risk for explosion can vary greatly. This is because there are so many variables – the grain dust particle size, the method of dispersion, ventilation system modes, air currents, physical barriers, and the volume of the area in which the grain dust cloud exists or may exist.

The OSHA ventilation standard, 29 CFR 1910.94, contains ventilation requirements for certain types of operations (such as abrasives, blasting, grinding, or buffing) which involve dusts, including dusts that can become combustible. Additionally, 29 CFR 1910.22(a)(1) requires employers to keep work places and other areas clean, which includes the removal of dust accumulations.

In nearly all industries, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends vacuum cleaning as the preferred first defense method of controlling dust. The 2013 revision of the NFPA 654 standard, issued by the Standards Council last year, states that vacuuming is the preferred method of cleaning.

When choosing an industrial vacuum to safely remove grain dust, what features should you look at in an industrial vacuum?

HEPA Filtration – If the collection of ultra-fine particles is a concern, the vacuum should utilize a multi-stage HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration system. HEPA filters remove 99.97 percent of particles at 0.3 microns, and they keep pollutants from re-entering the air supply. A heavy-duty, multistage filtration system will provide minimal material carryover to filters, catching and retaining particles as they move through the filter layers.

Continuous-Duty Operation – Cleaning times for manufacturing equipment can vary, so select a vacuum that provides continuous-duty vacuum operation. The vacuum should include a high-performance, automatic pulse-jet cartridge filter cleaning feature to save on manual labor and vacuum downtime. Look for a vacuum that doesn’t require shutdowns for filter cleaning.

test14aLimited Lifetime Warranty – Any industrial vacuum should come with a limited lifetime warranty. Purchasing a vacuum system is a long-term investment decision, which is why it is important to get a manufacturer’s warranty giving you the assurance and long-lasting protection in the product you are buying. It marks the manufacturer’s unwavering commitment to quality that lasts.

These are just a few of the many factors to consider when purchasing an industrial vacuum system. Ultimately, the overall solution must address the process requirements, materials and the volumes processed.

Aug 20

VPP Success Story: GE Sayre Railcar Repair Shop

railway repair carCompanies that believe workplace safety planning should be proactive rather than reactive address the safety of their employees before dangerous incidents occur and beyond only what the law mandates. In the first of a series of blog posts highlighting companies that have taken extra steps to satisfy Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety requirements in their Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a cooperative program that recognizes employers and employees who proactively prevent worksite injuries and illnesses, here we look at the General Electric Sayre Railcar Repair shop.

Located in north-central Pennsylvania, this GE full-service railcar service shop’s 100+ workers repair and service all types of railroad cars. GE Rail Services was first recognized as a Star worksite under VPP in 2001. VPP Star status recognizes the efforts of managers and employees who have achieved exemplary safety and health management systems.

At the Sayre service shop, a number of safety improvements were made due to the site’s ergonomics team – made up of 18-20 employee team members – which was involved in determining worksite needs in relation to best ergonomic practices. Supported by management, the team has conducted employee comfort surveys to gauge the quantitative risk associated with job tasks.

In addition to performing repairs and/or modifications, the many activities at the Sayre shop include removing residual commodity and removing paint and interior lining (abrasive blasting).

OSHA believes that by using good work practices, the risk of exposure to air contaminants and other safety/health risks associated with abrasive blasting can be minimized. Such practices include using industrial vacuum systems equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters or wet methods when removing accumulated dust. Companies looking to participate in the VPP program while facing dust issues related to abrasive blasting should consider a DEMARCO Industrial Vacuum system.

Demarco industrial vacuum