Major variables responsible for causing fire
The Hoeganaes Gallatin facility experienced several iron dust flash fires together with hydrogen explosions because several major variables which exist within the facility that served as a cause for the fires. One of these major variables is the bucket elevators which have a tendency of going off track when there is a misalignment on the belts which pull the buckets. In one fire incident, the bucket elevator veered off-track and when it was restarted, it vibrated and dispersed dust of iron into the air which caught flames. Another major variable that is responsible for fire is the hydrogen atmosphere which is provided inside the band furnace. In one fire incident, leaking hydrogen gas exploded at a time when it was mistaken that nonflammable nitrogen gas was leaking. The explosion caused large volumes of iron dust to disperse into the air which caught flames. Also, the powdered metal is a major variable to the fires in the facility. In every fire incident, iron dust gets ignited into flames which results in damages, deaths and injuries. Igniters too, are a major variable for fires in the facility. In the fire incident which occurred in March 29, 2011, the igniters which were being replaced interfered with the natural gas line of which the aftermath was a massive fireball (Chemical Safety Board (CSB), 2011).
OSHA standards are the rules which describe the ways that employers need to follow in ensuring employees acquire protection from hazards. There a re several OSHA standards which apply to the fire hazards in the facility. One of the standards concerns hazardous materials such as hydrogen (United States Deparmtent of Labor, n.d.). OSHA recommends that the installing gaseous hydrogen systems should be done in a manner that it originates from outside of a consumer premises and gets delivered through a mobile equipment. Hoeganaes facility complied to this standard by ensuring that the hydrogen is supplied onsite through furnaces which are in trenches below the surface.
Approaches to mitigate risks
If I was a safety officer, following the third incident in the report, I would mitigate the risk by installing a fire detection system. The fire detection system will remain always on, such that it can detect and extinguish fires as soon as a combustion takes place. Knowing that the nature of fires in this facility concerns hydrogen gas and iron dust, I would engage methods of suppression which are more powerful such as the use of a combination of both manual and automatic fire detectors. More than one devices for activating alarms will be used so that any person who detects signs of smoke, heat, odors, or flames can activate them to signal for an emergency response. For example, a manual alarm activation would be necessary in the fire incident which was caused by a hissing sound. As soon as a healthy worker identified the hissing sound, they would have activated the alarm, which would have avoided the likelihood of an inferno. Additionally, an automated detector will be necessary in the event that the manual fire detector does not prove to be effective (Artim, 2020). Automated detectors can emulate the senses of sight, smell and touch which are accustomed to humans. An automated heat detector and an automated flame detector will identify high temperatures and fires caused by burning iron dust respectively.
NFPA Life Safety Code
The NFPA Life Safety Code is relied upon for strategies to keep people in building construction, occupancy and protection features to be in minimizing the impact of fire and fire hazards. The applicable life safety code is Code 184.108.40.206 part 2 which recommends the installation of a life safety system, like smoke detection alarms, smoke control, and compartmentation, that are engineered and complies with being approved by the authority with jurisdiction (NFPA).