Behind 3 More Key Updates to NFPA 61

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NFPA 61 establishes the standards of fire and dust explosion protection in agricultural and food processing facilities. The results of accumulated dust in a facility can be catastrophic, but these events are also extremely preventable. That’s why we believe in frequently reminding the readers of our blog about impending deadlines related to dust hazard mitigation.

The scene in Savannah, Georgia where knee-high piles of sugar dust ignited one small blast that led to a chain reaction of other explosions. Firefighters worked to extinguish the flames for an entire week, and Imperial Sugar faced an 8 million-dollar settlement with OSHA as well as civil cases for damages following the incident. 

A critical step in abiding by regulations that keep employees safe is performing a Dust Hazards Analysis (DHA). DHAs can involve different activities depending on which NFPA standards relate to your specific industry sector. For instance, NFPA 61 applies to specific industry standards for types of dust that a facility manages as a “commodity specific” standard. These materials include agricultural dust, rather than standards that cover metal, wood and plastic dust. As we’ve outlined in our NFPA-related infographic, when there are differences between 61 and 652, the NFPA allows the user to choose between the two standards.

Events (like in Savannah) where proper dust mitigation was not effectively implemented were often discussed at great length during NFPA committee meetings for the 2020 edition of NFPA 61. As we continue to focus on the standards and deadlines related to NFPA 61, there are a few more pertinent updates that we believe would be helpful to keep in mind for those looking to avoid results that could negatively impact worker safety, property and a company’s reputation. Here are 3 more changes to NFPA 61.

More information on potential ignition sources has been added

New sections on spray dryer systems, mixers and blenders as well as work activities that present an ignition source have been added to the 2020 edition of NFPA 61. Specifically, the NFPA defines “hot work” as work that involves “burning, welding or a similar operation that is capable of initiating fires or explosions.”

A new section was added to the 2020 edition of NFPA 61 involving “drilling, sawing and the use of hand-operated portable electrical equipment that doesn’t comply with the electrical classification of the area it is to be operated in.” This section was included because it did not fit the definition of “hot work” and doesn’t fall under the rest of the requirements in section 8.5. 

These types of activities are permitted, but before the activities begin, the areas affected by such work are to be “thoroughly cleaned” of airborne and combustible dust. It is advised by the NFPA to shut down and clean equipment containing any combustible dust near the work area prior to commencing work. 

Floor and wall openings in the work area are to be covered or sealed as well. Such work should not be performed on surfaces or equipment that directly handles combustible dust, according to the NFPA. 

More methods for completing a DHA have been added

Annex material has been added to provide information about the methods that can be used to complete a DHA in NFPA 61. These include determining the filtering efficiency of dust collectors and protection methods for bins, silos and tunnels where explosion venting is not practical.

Agricultural dust table includes additional types of dust 

A table on agricultural dust test dates has been updated and expanded to include additional types of dust. The table is available on pages 38-41 of the Annex section of NFPA 61.

More information about which standards apply to your plant processes can always be found directly from the NFPA. For future updates regarding dust hazard-specific industry sectors stay tuned to the AZO blog. AZO has seven decades of experience in handling raw materials and shaping ingredient automation along the way. Feel free to contact our sales team for any questions on how to help your operations run as efficiently as possible. 

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