Helping a Hardwood Milling Company Play the Long Game on Managing its Risks
The client, specializing in hardwood molding, handrails, stair treads, and flooring, called on Continental Underwriters, Inc. to be their risk assessment partner to identify risks as well as opportunities for better insurance coverage in the long-term, and this was a result of an increase in rates from their previous insurance provider.
Build a long-term risk management plan for the client’s business and act as an educational partner, from implementation to optimization, for the mill’s unique needs.
Our Client Approach:
Continental Underwriters, Inc. began by completing an in-person assessment at the client’s millwork facility. The focus of our discussion centered around the client’s existing operations and risk management programs. During the session, we also highlighted the risk areas that could be better mitigated, helping the mill prioritize each item in order of critical, important, and general.
The mill’s biggest hazard came from the dry material used in creating their products, as dry lumber creates a dust that is combustible if not handled properly. Because of its catastrophic risk potential, our assessment and recommendations were highly targeted around safety protocols for their dust collection systems and larger equipment such as Rip Lines and Flooring Lines. For every recommendation made, we provided context and rationale by sharing past experiences from within the wood products industry and how those past catastrophic losses dictate what we assess and how we make our recommendations.
Two critical hazards that required immediate attention upon our assessment were the need to isolate potential explosions in the Baghouses and provide a means of introducing water into the dust collection system in the event of a fire, a system known as Manual Deluge. Both issues were identified as potentially catastrophic if left unattended, and as such, both were solved by the client using our recommendations within the first 90 days.
The next hazard level, labeled as “important”, assessed specific equipment-related risks as well as suggested improvements to the client’s existing housekeeping and hot works Programs. In the case of an “important” item, which has a slightly lower risk level, we’re able to collaborate with the client team to find alternate solutions that work best for their unique environment. The mill’s dust collection venting was a great example of this.
At the time of our assessment, one of the dust collection units was returning air back into the building, which would potentially hold a risk of an explosion being directed into the mill. Our recommendation was to lock the vent in the open position to vent air to the atmosphere until a High-Speed Abort Gate could be installed. Although the Abort Gate was a long-term project, we worked with the client team to ensure the risk was mitigated until the larger equipment was in place.
Another great instance of collaborative problem solving presented itself with our recommendations around their housekeeping program. While our team typically discourages the use of household appliances in industrial areas or outside controlled environments, operating in a pandemic made this best practice unrealistic. So, together with the client, we created an amendment to their housekeeping program that included regular cleaning and routine maintenance on those appliances. For a long-term solution, the client is now planning the construction of a freestanding breakroom area for their employees.
When assessing the client’s existing risk management programs, we aimed to understand their business goals and the kinds of systems that make sense for their teams, while highlighting any possible areas for improvement. In this case, the client already had solid housekeeping and hot works programs in place, but there were still areas for improvement. The typical OSHA-recommended fire-watch time is 30 minutes, but in this case for wood products, we recommended increasing the fire-watch time to five hours. We also suggested they move their grinding table out from the middle of the mill and further away from nearby combustible dry materials, which they were able to accomplish within those first few months. Similarly on their housekeeping program, while we noted that best practices were being upheld, a recent dust collector leak presented an opportunity to repair and clean up the duct to prevent future risk. Not only did the client move forward with this recommendation, but they took it a step further by coordinating a buyer to purchase and pick up the dust on a consistent basis moving forward.
One of our general, longer-term recommendations was in regard to an old sprinkler system that was no longer in use. While we shared several options on how they could replace and/or repair the entire system over the next 5-10 years, we also worked with the client team to identify less expensive, short-term tactics, such as installing Spark Suppression to reduce the highest areas of risk – the dust collection systems.
As the client’s educational partner in this project, our goal is to maintain an ongoing dialog, continue asking questions, take the time to explain the impact of each of the identified risks, and provide guidance on the available solutions.
Built a long-term risk management plan for the client’s business while providing advice and educational guidance throughout implementation.
Partnered with the client to identify short-term risk management solutions that worked with their specific priorities, internal resources, and budget.
Reduced impending risks by understanding the daily processes of the client’s operation and sharing recommendations on how to optimize.
Created an open line of communication with the client to feel comfortable sharing risk information in the future and collaborate to identify optimal solutions.
Encouraged unique solutions to risk scenarios that could not be effectively managed by standard best practices.