Combustible Dust Testing

Laboratory testing to quantify dust explosion and reactivity hazards

Safety Data Sheets

Develop critical safety data for inclusion in SDS documents

Gas and Vapor

Laboratory testing to quantify explosion hazards for vapor and gas mixtures

Classification of hazardous materials subject to shipping and storage regulations
Testing and consulting on the explosion risks associated with devices and processes which use or produce hydrogen
Safety Data Sheets

Develop critical safety data for inclusion in SDS documents

Thermal Stability

Safe storage or processing requires an understanding of the possible hazards associated with sensitivity to variations in temperature

Adiabatic Calorimetry
Data demonstrate the consequences of process upsets, such as failed equipment or improper procedures, and guide mitigation strategies including Emergency Relief System (ERS) design
Reaction Calorimetry
Data yield heat and gas removal requirements to control the desired process chemistry
Battery Safety

Testing to support safe design of batteries and electrical power backup facilities particularly to satisfy UL9540a ed.4

Safety Data Sheets

Develop critical safety data for inclusion in SDS documents

Cable Testing
Evaluate electrical cables to demonstrate reliability and identify defects or degradation
Equipment Qualification (EQ)
Testing and analysis to ensure that critical equipment will operate under adverse environmental conditions
Water Hammer
Analysis and testing to identify and prevent unwanted hydraulic pressure transients in process piping
Acoustic Vibration
Identify and eliminate potential sources of unwanted vibration in piping and structural systems
Gas & Air Intrusion
Analysis and testing to identify and prevent intrusion of gas or air in piping systems
ISO/IEC 17025:2017

Fauske & Associates fulfills the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2017 in the field of Testing

ISO 9001:2015
Fauske & Associates fulfills the requirements of ISO 9001:2015
Dust Hazards Analysis
Evaluate your process to identify combustible dust hazards and perform dust explosion testing
On-Site Risk Management
On-site safety studies can help identify explosibility and chemical reaction hazards so that appropriate testing, simulations, or calculations are identified to support safe scale up
DIERS Methodology
Design emergency pressure relief systems to mitigate the consequences of unwanted chemical reactivity and account for two-phase flow using the right tools and methods
Deflagrations (Dust/Vapor/Gas)

Properly size pressure relief vents to protect your processes from dust, vapor, and gas explosions

Effluent Handling

Pressure relief sizing is just the first step and it is critical to safely handle the effluent discharge from an overpressure event

FATE™ & Facility Modeling

FATE (Facility Flow, Aerosol, Thermal, and Explosion) is a flexible, fast-running code developed and maintained by Fauske and Associates under an ASME NQA-1 compliant QA program.

Mechanical, Piping, and Electrical
Engineering and testing to support safe plant operations and develop solutions to problems in heat transfer, fluid, flow, and electric power systems
Hydrogen Safety
Testing and consulting on the explosion risks associated with devices and processes which use or produce hydrogen
Thermal Hydraulics
Testing and analysis to ensure that critical equipment will operate under adverse environmental conditions
Nuclear Safety
Our Nuclear Services Group is recognized for comprehensive evaluations to help commercial nuclear power plants operate efficiently and stay compliant
Radioactive Waste
Safety analysis to underpin decomissioning process at facilities which have produced or used radioactive nuclear materials
Adiabatic Safety Calorimeters (ARSST and VSP2)

Low thermal inertial adiabatic calorimeters specially designed to provide directly scalable data that are critical to safe process design

Other Lab Equipment and Parts for the DSC/ARC/ARSST/VSP2 Calorimeters

Products and equipment for the process safety or process development laboratory


Software for emergency relief system design to ensure safe processing of reactive chemicals, including consideration of two-phase flow and runaway chemical reactions


Facility modeling software mechanistically tracks transport of heat, gasses, vapors, and aerosols for safety analysis of multi-room facilities


Our highly experienced team keeps you up-to-date on the latest process safety developments.

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With over 40 years of industry expertise, we have a wealth of process safety knowledge to share.

Recent Posts

Dust Collector Lessons Learned from US Ink Explosion and Fire

Posted by Fauske & Associates on 04.07.15

By Ronald L. Allen, MS, PE, CSP Senior Consulting Engineer, Fauske & Associates, LLC

Generally speaking, there are negative connotations associated with the phrase “Steering with Your Rearview Mirror” and its close cousin, “Hindsight is 20-20”.  Despite the fact that no one likes to be second-guessed, huge opportunities are missed if lessons are not constructively learned from experience – including the experience of others.

Readers of this blog need no introduction to the value of incident investigation.  In many cases, investigation reports or case studies represent the inverse and are often complements to safety standards.  Safety standards utilize inductive reasoning to provide instruction and requirements needed to reduce risk.  Investigations and case studies provide detail about breakdowns that allowed incidents to occur. Through deductive reasoning (i.e., identification of contributing and root causes), these reports often close the loop by reinforcing the need to adhere to the inductive-reasoning safety standards that were previously mentioned. Pie_Chart

Because of the widespread use of dust collectors (a.k.a., air-material separators) across many industries, users of such equipment can benefit from the learnings produced by investigation of incidents at other facilities. Combustible dust fires and dust explosions involving collectors are at the top of the list for  dust hazard incidents according to FM Global. Hence, Fauske & Associates, (FAI) plans to provide a series of articles dealing with dust collection systems beginning with this summary of the Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) recently-published, case study detailing the background and causes of an October 2012 fire and explosion at a US Ink manufacturing facility (unit of Sun Chemical Corporation).

The incident occurred at US Ink’s East Rutherford, NJ’s facility and involved a recently-commissioned dust collector. The incident that resulted in burns to seven workers – including third degree burns to three workers – along with property damage and significant downtime.  The new dust collector was installed as a part of a larger process modification and had only been in service for only two days when the incident occurred. The collection dust hopper and dust fines chute were filled with approximately 322 pounds of dust fines following the incident. The US Ink manufacturing process that associated with the incident employed both combustible dusts and flammable liquids (hybrid mixture).

The case study provides extensive background about the incident. It identifies actions taken by US Ink and its contractors that mitigated the severity of the incident along with discussions about contributing and root causes and recommendations.

On the favorable side of the equation, functioning fire and explosion suppression and isolation systems reduced the severity of the incident.

Key lessons from the incident that could assist any firm utilizing dust collection systems are summarized below. Readers are encouraged to review the rich detail provided in the complex case study for additional information. While some of the circumstances associated with the incident were unusual (e.g., retirement of lead engineer prior to commissioning the dust collecting equipment), those circumstances may not be unique or isolated.

A. Safety management concerns brought up in the CSB report:

  1. Inadequate Project Oversight and Misrepresentation of Management of Change (MOC) Exemption: The CSB rejected US Ink’s argument that a process hazard analysis (PHA) was not necessary because the new dust (dry) collector was a replacement in kind for the former dust (wet) collector.
  2. Inadequate Management of Organization Change and Contractor Oversight: US Ink claimed to rely upon the expertise of the manufacturers of the dust collection system and on their contractors for smooth operation of the system without providing adequate oversight for the dust collection project.  The study also observed that US Ink had failed to adequately engage its engineer staff to support the design, installation, and commissioning of the dust collection system.
  3. Ineffective Hazard Communication and Emergency Response Planning: Shortcomings referenced in the case study included:
    1. Failure to adhere to activate the facility evacuation plan in a timely fashion.
    2. Inadequate fire hazard and emergency training.
    3. Ineffective automatic fire alarm system associated with sprinkler system.  NFPA requires audible and visible fire emergency notification.
    4. Audible alarm for sensing a pressure rise in the dust collector did not function properly
    5. Inadequate shutdown procedures
  4. Ineffective Employee Training on Dust Collection Mechanism: 
    1. The 15-minute meeting following the start-up of the dust collector for supervisors and one of the day-shift operators was deemed as “inadequate” by the CSB.
    2. Absence of a fire or explosion incident prevention program
    3. No mechanism for operators to determine changes in the collector's performance.  One worker reported that he relied on instinct. 
  5. Failure to Communicate Lessons Learned from Previous Incident: The CSB observed that US Ink had not applied “lessons learned” from a similar fire incident that occurred in 2008 at the same facility.  No injuries were associated with the earlier incident.
B. Safety management concerns inferred in the CSB report
  1. Hazard Assessment Not Conducted: Testing of materials for explosible properties was not performed. The company relied on values obtained from material suppliers – these values are questionable unless provided in an actual laboratory test report. Values gleaned from an SDS form is not sufficient.
  2. No Prestart Up Safety Review:
    1. Testing of equipment prior to start-up was not suitable (e.g., no measurement of system pressures were taken at commissioning of the dust collection system as required by NFPA 91 and NFPA 654).
    2. Equipment not inspected.
  3. Personal Protective Equipment:  the CSB report states that US Ink employees were not wearing FRC (fire resistant clothing).  One of the workers who sustained third degree burns was wearing a short-sleeve T-shirt. A hazard assessment conducted prior to start-up would have identified the requirement to wear FRC because of the risk of flash fires or explosions.
  4. Equipment Maintenance:  the CSB reports that US Ink had knowledge that the system for collecting dust was operating improperly (defective interlock) during the weekend that preceded the incident but did not take effective action to investigate or remedy the situation.
  5. Procedures: Safe operating temperature parameters were not established. 
C. Additional design concerns, including:
  1. The dust pickup points in the dust collection system pulled excessive quantities of dust and condensable vapors into the ductwork, which operated at low conveying velocities. This accumulation in the ductwork was the fuel for the primary deflagration that initiated the incident chain of events.
  2. There was no automatic temperature control for mix tanks
  3. Installation of vacuum hoses for housekeeping purposes that were powered by the system for collecting dust without consideration of how those vacuum lines could affect the performance of the dust collection system.
  4. Lack of system controlling parameters for operators to monitor performance and detect system degradation
  5. The system for collecting dust not designed to prevent, contain, or extinguish fires:
    1. US Ink employee testimonies revealed that rubberized flexible hoses used for housekeeping were the first parts of the system to fail when the duct fire started.
    2. Flexible hose lengths exceeding recommended best practice of being “as short as possible” (usually not more than 3 feet) added resistance to branch lines.

Back to the value of investigations and “steering with your review mirror” . . . knowledge by itself does not produce improvement. Or, in the words of famed educator and author Henrietta Mears, “It is difficult to steer a parked car, so get moving”. Readers desiring assistance in applying the lessons described in this article or other combustible dust controls are encouraged to contact Fauske & Associates, LLC Risk Management Director Amy Theis, at, 630-887-5211.

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