The Combustible Dust Cake
I spent Wednesday morning visiting a client facility to present a combustible dust hazard awareness “train the trainer” course to the client’s leadership team. Those of us who routinely practice in the area of high hazard occupational safety understand both the risks of combustible dust and how to appropriately mitigate and control those risks. When developing and delivering combustible dust training, though, I’m always concerned about striking the right balance between informing the target audience about the seriousness of the risks and unintentionally scaring the “bejeezus” out of them (especially hourly workers). Yesterday, I think I inadvertently stumbled on a new teaching tool…
Because my (obviously confidential) client has been so cool to work with over the past several months, my (obviously awesome) wife volunteered to bake them a cake for my visit yesterday. (If you’re curious, the recipe is available here: http://thebestmomontheblock.blogspot.com/2010/08/chocolate-cavity-maker-cake.html). Briefly glancing at the cake during my drive got me thinking about the recipe. As luck would have it, the cake’s recipe includes no less than two common combustible dusts in the form of flour and powdered sugar.
As it turns out, the cake helped me put the risks of combustible dusts into context during the training session. Yes, combustible dusts can be dangerous if improperly managed, but the following are also true:
1. We all likely have combustible dusts in our households.
2. The mere presence of a combustible dust doesn’t create danger — the devil is in the details.
3. Combustible dusts aren’t all exotic chemical concoctions with hard to pronounce names.
4. Properly handled, you can use combustible dust raw materials to make useful (and/or delicious) finished products.
Talking about the presence of combustible dusts in the delicious (and only dangerous to the waistline) cake led to nods of understanding. Things really began to click when I showed a clip from CSB’s Imperial Sugar video that I use to talk about the importance of a robust management of change program. The only downside to all of this is that my wife might be on the hook for some more cakes in the future...