News Archives

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Part 1: What is a Dust Hazard Analysis?

This three-part series defines the NFPA 652 guideline changes and impact to existing and new facilities. The article will also explore compelling reasons to get ahead of this regulation change.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 50 combustible dust accidents occurred in the United States alone between 2008 and 2012. To continue improving and reducing hazard risk in agricultural facilities, the NFPA reviews and updates their guidelines every three years. The latest, 2016 edition of NFPA 652 Standards for Combustible Dust introduces the use of a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA). This edition’s NFPA 652 update impacts existing and new facilities that combat dust-related hazards as a result of their processes. The NFPA now advises commissioning a DHA once every five years.

What Is a Dust Hazard Analysis?

A Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA) documents potential fire, flash fire and explosion (or dust deflagration) hazards. All potential hazards are placed in one of three general categories: Not a hazard, Maybe a hazard or Deflagration hazard. In existing facilities, a licensed professional will conduct a site visit to observe the process, categorize potential hazards and provide any recommended administrative or engineering safeguards to reduce the risk of deflagration. For new facilities or facility expansions, a licensed professional can assess and incorporate safety measures in designs based on the local jurisdiction and building codes.

When considering commissioning a DHA, reach out to the Authority Having Jurisdiction and a licensed professional. These entities will confirm which codes and guidelines are used in the jurisdiction and if a DHA is required for a project. To perform the DHA and offer practical solutions, engage a licensed professional that specializes in the industry, such as an architect, mechanical engineer or fire protection engineer. A qualified professional will be knowledgeable about the facility process and have a thorough understanding of local and state codes.


Read the next parts of this series for more information:

Part 2: DHA in New and Existing Facilities

Part 3: Learning from a Dusty Past


About the Authors
Doug Rohkohl
As a Senior Designer at VAA, Doug regularly works with owners and design-build contractors to design feed mills, grain elevators and other agricultural bulk material handling and processing facilities from early stages of project conception through final design and construction. Doug’s 15 years of experience in agribusiness has translated into a comprehensive understanding of how different construction methods; material handling and process systems; and the NFPA affect design. His favorite part of the job is meeting with plant managers at their facility to understand challenges and work together towards improving operations.

Eric Peterson
Eric has two decades of domestic and international experience, including feed mills, grain export terminals, flour mills, bulk storage facilities and specialty slipform structures. Versatile in managing both engineering and construction efforts, he understands the details needed to fulfill design, constructability,
procurement and cost estimating activities. A member of the NFPA, Eric’s knowledge of material handling, mechanical and structural engineering is complemented by his technical skills in AutoCAD, P6 and Hard Dollar. Prior to joining VAA, Eric worked for a design-build contractor where he developed design concepts with clients and coordinated design and construction efforts with equipment vendors and subcontractors. Clients appreciate his global understanding of the design / construction process to accomplish operational goals and challenging facility requests.




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VAA Walked the Walk (for Animals)

Cats, dogs, goats... Oh my! VAA employees raised funds and participated with their canine companions in the Walk for Animals, the nation’s largest human / animal walk fundraising event. Thousands of people, pets and other four-legged friends took part in this Animal Humane Society fundraising event in an effort to provide food, shelter, medical care and happy homes for a variety of animals.

On top of walking the walk, VAA employees donated over $1,600 to the cause. The 2018 Walk for Animals event raised 93% of its goal or over $900,000 to help many animals in need in our community.

To learn more about the event or volunteering, visit the Animal Humane Society website.

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Sharing Industry Insights with the Next Generation

Student Day at the 2018 GEAPS Exchange gave young leaders an opportunity to ask questions, make connections and develop an understanding of careers in the grain industry. Brian Utoft, a Senior Associate / Senior Process Engineer at VAA, participated along with several of his peers to lead discussions. Read the full GEAPS article about the 2018 Student Day at Exchange below.


Student Day at Exchange is an opportunity for students to learn more about the industry and make connections to help launch a successful career in the industry. This year featured two industry experts speaking on a panel, and roundtable discussions between students and industry professionals. The event drew 61 students from Kansas State University, Ohio State University, University of Nebraska at Lincoln University, Huntington University, Valley View High School in Gilcrest, Colorado and Fort Morgan High School in Fort Morgan, Colorado.

One of the panel speakers was Rick Fifer, retired, Cornbelt Chapter. He volunteered because he is passionate about America’s youth, and could provide some insight into the industry after a successful career in product sales and service.

“I was extremely impressed with the number of students attending, and the smart questions that were asked of the panel,” Fifer said. “I felt that all the students were genuinely interested in the program. They were particularly interested in the various challenges professionals face in day-to-day grain operations, and what characteristics were considered as essential in building skillsets.”

The other panel speaker, Mark Fedje, General Mills, Minneapolis, volunteered to help give back to the industry and to show students that they are entering a different industry then what many current workers did.

“I tried to highlight the new technologies and changes in safety programs,” Fedje said. “One of the questions that came up more than once was how you build a great safety culture. I said you have to walk the talk and meet with your employees in their space get out on the floor and talk about what their needs are, what would make their job better and easier. That will build great relationships with employees and also build that culture.”

After the panel, students were invited to break out into roundtable discussions with a number of current grain industry professionals. For Brian Utoft, VAA, Minneapolis, it was an opportunity to meet the next wave of industry professionals, and learn about the challenges they face to anticipate issues as potential employers.

“Most of the students were relatively shy at first but we ended up having good conversations.” Utoft said. “One challenge students are facing today is the fact that a large number of people are starting to

retire from this industry and the knowledge transfer isn’t always clean. A lot of knowledge is leaving this industry and there isn’t much time for students to learn everything they could.”

For Jeff Jones, MKC, Great Plains, International Board director, it was the third time he has been involved in Student Day. He said he always enjoys the roundtable discussions, and he was impressed by the students’ preparation.

“It’s exciting to see the enthusiasm these young folks are bringing to agriculture and the grain industry,” Jones said. “I want to give them a realistic expectation of where the industry is headed and opportunities that they will have.”

Students attending Student Day and accompanying faculty are invited to attend the Exchange for free each year. If you know a student or advisor with a college or university that would be interested in attending Student Day at Exchange 2019, or if you would like to be involved in the program next year, contact Deb Most at or (763) 999-4300 to learn more.


The Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) is an international professional association that supports its members and the industry by serving as The Knowledge Resource for the world of grain handling and processing industry operations. GEAPS addresses the industry’s critical grain handling, storage and processing operations needs by providing the finest networking, professional development programs, and access to a global marketplace of equipment, services and technology solutions providers. GEAPS’ global network of industry professionals includes more than 2,800 individual members from about 1,150 companies.

2017 Expansion: Annapolis Construction Over Time

Interested in the journey from rubble to a functional office? Watch as the Annapolis space unfolds over the course of construction from 14 different angles. The video below highlights several amenities for all employees to enjoy, including two kitchen areas, a large-group training center and fitness and game rooms to support employee wellness.