Safety in numbers: Engineer your plan

Fire protection piping
Fire protection piping designed by Evergreen Engineering at the CalPlant rice straw to MDF facility in Willows, CA.
Benjamin Franklin’s well-used adage, “Failure to plan is planning to fail,” is almost tailor-made for the wood products industry, especially with regard to safety.

By now, everyone with connection to the wood products industry has witnessed a deflagration event or its aftermath – at least vicariously – and understands the danger of both undetected sparks and dust.

The safety culture of mills in North America has come a long way, but perfection is yet to be attained. Part of a safe facility lies with its inception. If you are planning a project and do not enlist engineering to plan for safety, be it spark detection, dust hazard analysis, fire suppression systems, ducting, venting, monitoring, or alarms, you are planning in vain.

A well-engineered system not only takes into consideration the codes to be met, but calculates the safest working conditions to be found as well. Consider the overall mill structure, the likelihood of thermal event, and the holistic view of the facility being built or modified.

Engineering runs the numbers on safety, and the stamp of a licensed professional engineer indicates these factors have been weighed and included in the plan from the start.

Any project budget should include around 10% engineering costs. Some of those costs are hidden in the original planning by the client, others in the cost of the equipment your suppliers provide, and some directly spent on traditional engineered drawings and models … but attempting to remove this cost from the equation will really cost you down the road.

An experienced engineering firm will consult with your team, assess your facility, and deliver real-world solutions to protect your asset, your people, and your project from the start.

From the civil and structural team designing your building envelope and machine structures, to the electrical group delivering power to the motors, controls, alarms, and lighting, to the mechanical engineers developing process, ducting, and piping, to the environmental planning, safety is found in running the numbers. Engineering calculations lead to safer installs, safer mills, and safer teams.

Aaron Edewards

Aaron Edewards,
Business Development Director


Published in Wood Bioenergy, Oct. 2020