Handling in warehouses with potentially explosive atmospheres

Handling flammable material safely was a key focus at the recent UKWA Operations and Safety meeting in London.

Potentially explosive atmospheres exist in warehouses across the UK that store and distribute flammable aerosols, paints, food, drink, varnishes, solvents and a multitude of other highly flammable materials, says Malcolm Davis, from Pyroban’s Industrial Division, and one of the key speakers at the UKWA Operations and Safety meeting held in July.

By following five principle steps, businesses can manage these hazardous operations safely and comply with UK DSEAR (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002) requirements and the European ATEX Directives, he says.

Businesses should first prevent the formation of explosive atmospheres, assess the risk, classify hazardous areas, specify/update equipment according to risk and ensure ongoing explosion risk management through service and Ex audits, says Malcolm, explaining that explosions can occur when air, fuel (which in this case could be a solvent or gas being stored) and an ignition source come together.

A risk assessment under DSEAR will usually identify that a warehouse containing flammable liquids and gases in sealed containers should be classified as a Zone 2 hazardous area in case of spillage or stock damage.  This is common for manufacturers with raw and finished goods storage, but also for a significant and growing number of 3PLs.

The risk assessment is critical in determining whether the area is formally classified and there are many factors that may affect the designation, he adds. Once the area classification is determined, any equipment used in that area should be specified and maintained accordingly.

Reach trucks, pallet and stacker trucks, counterbalance and VNA machines are all mobile ignition sources (i.e from heat or sparks) so all components should be suitably assessed and protected if operating in these Zone 2 warehouse areas. Access platforms and scrubber driers are also commonly used in warehouses and have similar properties.

Pyroban converts more than 800 forklifts a year for use in hazardous areas and is considered the global market leader. At the specification stage the company needs to know the Zone, information about the material including the gas group and ignition temperature (T class) and if it is a dust/powder hazard, whether it is conductive or combustible, or both. Duty cycle, shifts and battery charging are important to establish along with any special application requirements such as fleet management systems, cameras or lighting.

For most diesel and battery electric truck applications, installing Pyroban’s system6000„¢ gas protection system will enable materials handling equipment to safely operate within Zone 2 process and storage areas says Malcolm.

system6000 helps prevent explosions by combining gas detection with various explosion protection methods such as restricted breathing enclosures, stainless steel cladding of forks and surface temperature cooling to ensure the engine, motors, brakes, electrics and other components remain below the auto-ignition temperatures of flammable materials.

However, not all sites have formal classification. Businesses with low-risk, unclassified applications where some risk remains to be managed, trucks can be fitted with the Pyroban Gascheka duo„¢ system. The system provides the driver with audible and visual warnings before automatically shutting down the truck and preventing a potential explosion before an explosive atmosphere can form.

Both system6000„¢ and Gascheka duo„¢ give users the option of selecting the gas sensing system best suited to their specific need with either pellistor or infrared gas sensing technology, says Malcolm. Infrared technology is particularly suited to logistics operations where a single hazard type, such as aerosols, is being handled, or if silicones are present in the environment. In contrast, the pellistor system detects a wide range of hazards and may be more suited to chemical, paint or waste operations.

Standard forklifts can also be protected for operation in Zone 1, 21 and 22 hazardous areas and Pyroban is working with all forklift brands to ensure total compliance and safety.  This includes ongoing maintenance, parts supply and Ex-ASA audits to achieve ongoing compliance.  The company can also provide hazardous area training and consulting services.

For more information, visit www.pyroban.com, tel: 44(0)1273 466200 or email: info@pyroban.com.

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