Insurance Company Requiring Spark Arrestors


From original questioner:

I decided to post this here as well as the Dust collection forum because it may be a new woodworking business requirement.
We are a now an 8 man shop finally making progress towards digging out of the hole that the housing crash put us into.
Replace failing computers, repairing equipment, looking at giving employees long overdue raises, repay myself for the second mortgage on my home to keep the business afloat. Sounds familiar Huh!

At the beginning of the year we changed insurance companies. As fate would have it our lead man had an incident with a pin gun borrowed from another employee.
He was really considerate towards minimizing the work comp claim and was back to work as shortly.
The insurance company requests a loss control inspection. We oblige the request and what does my insurance agent email back to me.
Hi Lee,

S..... Insurance informed me that they have the following 4 recommendations for you following the recent loss control inspection:

1). Insured is currently missing spark arrestors in the ductwork and ventilation systems

2). The sawdust should be vacuumed and not blown down on all horizontal structures. Vacuuming should be completed more than on an annual basis.

3). Adding safety features to the Equip staple guns will not allow a nail to be released unless the tip is against a restricting surface (WC claim on 1/23/14)
(employee's personal pin gun)

4). A formal forklift training and evaluation program should be established

S..... Insurance is requiring compliance with recommendations “1” and “2” as these are critical to the prevention of fires and any combustible hazards associated with your line of business. S..... Insurance will be following up on the status of these items in mid-August to see how you are progressing with these recs.

E... will be contacting you in the next couple of days to discuss these items. Take care and have a great day!
I called my agent and told him we have no money for spark arrestor equipment, but would look at it in the future as a goal as profitability returns. My agent informed me that this was not really a request but a requirement or they would drop my coverage. He checked with my prior insurance company to see if this was out of line. They said this spark arrestor requirement is the new norm and would be requiring it on new policies.
Have any of you come across this new joy in running a small business?

From contributor Da


It’s not particularly surprising to me that an insurance company would “strongly encourage” you to do everything you can to prevent a combustible dust explosion. The Cabinet Makers Association recently produced an hour long webinar on that subject, and the recorded version of that session is available in our library for viewing.

General housekeeping has always been an insurance company concern. And better housekeeping impacts insurance premium costs. It’s not just the insurance company that is driving such health and safety concerns. OSHA has been increasingly more active in seeking out and fining woodworking businesses for combustible dust hazards. We all saw wood and therefore create dust. How the dust is handled makes the difference in being a victim or a hero and will impact your costs of doing business.

I’d further suggest that perhaps the insurance company you now have may not be the best fit for your business. The very best fit for an insurance company would be one that understands your business and perform the role of a valued partner and trusted consultant in helping you run a healthy, safe and profitable enterprise.

There are a handful of insurance companies that specialize in insuring woodworking businesses. You can find several of those companies listed in our associate member listings at the CMA website. Here's the link:

p us posted on how all this works out for you.

From contributor JR

Time to get a fresh quote from a fresh agent and request that he not contact the two companies that who are requiring this. Vacuum off the top of all ductwork before any inspection (and it is a good idea to do this anyway) and add a couple of 4" drops with blast gates at strategic locations to allow you to hook up a cheap plastic flex tubing to vacuum like they suggest. After a few rounds of this, the shop will be much cleaner and it will improve the air quality. I don't allow my employees to use a push broom for much of anything. We hook up a rolling floor sweep to 40' of 4" flex to make a huge central vac for floor cleaning. It gets rolled up and stored in an out of the way spot between use. Just had an insurance inspection and the guy complimented us on how clean the shop was. No mention of spark arrestors on our 15 HP system. Good luck!

From contributor Do

I was also just given a notice from our landlord's carrier that the dust on our shop floor was too thick. The regulation quoted something about it being no thicker than a dime.

I'm curious about what REALLY constitutes a risk for combustible dust? Why would a dime's thickness of dust sitting on the shop floor be considered a risk, while a bag full of dust in a dust collector is not? That just doesn't make common sense to me.

From contributor Je

I too have had problems with a lot of different insurance carriers that always want to cost you money so they can mitigate their coverage risk.

I have had Erie Insurance for the past 5 years for my liability, casualty and worker's comp insurance as well. No problems or hassles. We've even been getting a small annual credit to our premium for no loss history.


From contributor ri

Possible air borne and air suspended dust is the risk. It's easier to get it to a combustible or explosive ignition when suspended in the air. Somebody swings a sheet of plywood around, knocks the dust off the pipe and breaks an incandescent bulb at the same time. Possible explosion. Wasn't it a sugar factory explosion that set off all the requirements for cleanliness? They had sugar dust covering everything, and there was a loss of life when the plant blew up.

From contributor Ri

I can sympathize with your predicament but honestly this has been coming for a while and I have discussed it several times on the Dust Control forum. Anyway it is all explained and detailed in the latest NFPA-664 standard for dust control and fire prevention in wood processing shops. You need to read it and find out if your system and application apply. It has to do with max CFM, certain machines such as wide belt sanders etc etc. If you are moving 5000 or more CFM's then you fall within the standard's regulations

The NFPA as well as OSHA pretty much right the rules for all insurance underwriters. A great deal of OSHA's specs are taken from the NFPA since they test and develop the specs through their various technical committees. These committees are made up of various experts many of which run large wood related businesses and do indeed know what they are talking about plus an array of engineering or specialized testing labs

It's not just one or two insurance companies or a hard nosed loss control inspector driving this -- it's a safety standard now so all companies will follow it. Even if you find some dub inspector who doesn't write it up it is likely you may have a loss denied since most policies have clauses or wording that states you must comply with local, state, federal or industry standards.

Good luck

From contributor E.

I would consider getting the spark arrestors done. My boss complained about doing it 25 years ago! After having it installed, we were doing a customer a favor sanding off a veneer face. Unbeknown to us there was a nail somewhere in there. The spark started a fire in the duct work. Two heads went off in the duct work. Fire was put out in seconds. Fire dept came and left in twenty minutes. We lost one half hour of production time instead of having a major loss. My boss was then saying it was a good thing he listened to the insurance guys recommendation! EJay