An industry safe and sound

The December issue of EPM is now online. Tom Bryan writes in his editor's note about safety-related stories, as well as regulation and cellulosic ethanol stories, which appear in that issue.
By Tom Bryan | November 19, 2015

Most of our readers know that North American ethanol plants are empirically safe places to work. After all, Ethanol Producer Magazine has been covering the industry’s strong safety record for years, reporting on how U.S. producers maintain low rates of lost-time incidents, and how they retool safety plans and training programs to stay ahead of the curve. So while the overarching attainment of ethanol plant safety is not headline news—thank goodness—the nuanced, disciplined and very human process of achieving plant safety is always a great story. Truth is, ethanol plant safety runs deeper than sheer statistics (like the fact that only 4.6 percent of ethanol plant employees had a recordable injury last year). As EPM Managing Editor Holly Jessen reports in “Focus on Safety,” plant safety is about culture. It’s about trust. It’s about message. It’s about teamwork. It’s about protecting the well-being of employees and safeguarding lives. 

Safety necessitates communication, and Jessen reports that ethanol plants and the companies that serve them are increasingly training staff to report and discuss not just why accidents happened, but near misses and latent hazards. Companies are asking their employees to speak up, and man, they are. Novozymes, for example, set a goal for 150 safety suggestions this year and received more than 360. Talk about opening up.

Speaking of group communication, EPM Staff Writer Ann Bailey recently attended an ethanol handling safety seminar in North Dakota, one of 15 seminars in three states put on by the Renewable Fuels Association’s Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition in 2015. In “Ethanol Know-how, When It’s Needed,” Bailey reports that more than 4,800 first responders in 29 states have now been taught how to handle emergencies involving ethanol and ethanol-blended fuels. The coalition’s work is making a real difference. 

In another story, we turn from safety to regulatory compliance in “Probing the FSMA Rule.” This in-depth look at how ethanol producers will prepare for the Food Safety Modernization Act is a follow-up to our well-attended Oct. 6 webinar on the same subject. Susanne Retka Schill, EPM senior editor, explains that FSMA—the most sweeping reform of U.S. food safety laws in 70 years—will affect ethanol producers in several ways. The rule will, for example, oblige ethanol plants to adopt current good manufacturing practices and comply with rigorous hazard analysis requirements. It could also place new supply-chain requirements on producers. No doubt, it will take many, many months to understand the full impact of FSMA.  

Finally, we share images from the grand opening of DuPont’s 30 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. The company celebrated the plant’s substantial completion in late October. The commissioning process is under way.

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief