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New grant supports process safety management research


July 13, 2021
By Paul Amyotte, P.Eng., Dalhousie University

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Paul Amyotte, P.Eng., Dalhousie University

Safety, as we all know, requires a collective commitment to continual improvement. This requires expanding our current knowledge around safety hazards and exploring new ways of doing things so we can avoid major unwanted events.

WorkSafeBC’s recent award of a grant of $50,000 to Dalhousie University and its project partners is an excellent example of this collaboration. WorkSafeBC’s Innovation at Work Grant is based on the premise that the best solutions start with simple ideas and is aimed at making a difference in the workplace.

Together with our partners the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, BC Forest Safety Council and DustEx Research Ltd., we are launching a research project to look at integrating process safety management (PSM) into pellet plants that generate combustible wood dust.

This project builds on our current work within the Critical Control Management initiative, also funded through WorkSafeBC – a game changer in the pellet industry that is being wholeheartedly embraced across pellet plants in B.C. The current project deals solely with process hazard analysis (PHA) using a technique known as bowtie analysis. This will lead to more effective treatment of hazards at their source, resulting in safer operations in wood pellet plants. You can read more about this important initiative on WPAC’s website.

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The objective of this new grant is to research the explicit and effective integration of process safety management (PSM) concepts into wood pellet facilities that generate, handle, or produce combustible wood dust during their processing operations. We will examine process safety: (i) management systems, (ii) leading and lagging metrics, and (iii) culture components applicable to wood pellet manufacturing facilities in British Columbia. The primary research objective is to explicitly incorporate the three concepts into the operations of these facilities.

Over the course of the next year, our work will focus on both technical literature reviews as well as site visits to aid in the design of an industry PSM implementation plan and the development of guidance and tools to support implementation moving forward.

To quote Dennis Hendershot of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, “In general, the problem is not that we don’t know what to do, but rather that we do not always do what we already know how to do, and what we know we should do.”

I look forward to working with my team at Dalhousie, our partners WPAC, DustEx Research Ltd. and BC Forest Safety Council on this exciting new research as we innovate our way to a safer, better future.