Fire and explosion is an ever present danger in the highly regulated chemical waste management industry. With new systems of chemical classification in the industry, safety company, Pyroban, is advising businesses to check that forklifts handling chemical waste are legal and specified correctly.
"An explosion can happen in an instance," says Rob Vesty from safety business Pyroban. "A forklift driver’s response to a flammable chemical spillage in a Zone 2 area is just not fast enough, which is why the forklifts should automatically respond to any danger."
Forklifts are found on most waste management sites handling IBCs and drums containing all different kinds of flammable material. Gases, solids (powders, resins) or liquids (solvent, slurries, highly toxic), from chemical, pharmaceutical and other manufacturing industries are typically destroyed or recycled at these specialist waste management plants.
“Deliveries to waste sites are usually sampled by chemists and then batched or blended into compatible types for processing,” says Rob, explaining that the new WM3* standard in the UK has recently affected chemical classifications in the supply chain. “Forklifts could handle any substance with any flashpoint, any ignition temperature and any explosive limit at any time.”
On site, the forklifts usually operate in a Zone 2 hazardous area, described as an area where an “explosive atmosphere is not likely to occur in normal operation, and if it does occur, will exist for a short time”.
Standard forklift trucks can’t be used in these operations as they have a multitude of ignition sources which, in the right conditions, could cause an explosion. These include arcing and sparking components such as motors and relays, hot surfaces, static and many other factors.
"2.5-3 tonne capacity diesel forklifts are normally used to unload the waste from trailers as it arrives and position it in Zone 2 storage areas," says Rob. "Forklifts may also feed the process areas in batches where containers are vented."
Most waste management companies select the latest forklift trucks from their preferred supplier and request an explosion proof (ATEX 94/9/EC compliant) conversion through a company like Pyroban.
“There are two important factors at the forklift specification process,” says Rob. “Is the equipment specified correctly and will the conversion be legally compliant?”
Legal compliance is a collaboration
Waste management firms are highly regulated and usually well aware of the strict legal requirements which affect their processes and how hazardous areas are classified. However, when selecting forklift trucks for any hazardous area, the waste management company, OEM, equipment dealer and Pyroban, as a supplier, should all comply with ATEX 94/9/EC, the Manufacturers Directive and more recently ISO 3691-1:2011, a technical collaboration with the manufacturer.
Specifying forklifts for Zone 2
Because an explosive atmosphere is not expected unless by accidental release, forklifts in Zone 2 areas usually feature a system which detects the hazard and automatically shuts down the forklift in case of danger.
Pyroban’s system6000™ is an ATEX compliant forklift conversion featuring a system that senses the risk giving an audible and visual warning at 10% Lower Explosive Limit (LEL – propane in air) followed by shutdown before dangerous levels are reached. Restricted breathing enclosures, exhaust gas coolers and a multitude of other components and modifications complete the conversion.
“Selecting the right sensing technology for the application is critical,” says Rob, explaining that Pyroban offers two principle technologies, infrared or pellistor based.
A pellistor head is best suited to waste management operations because it responds to virtually all flammable gases and vapours, whereas an infrared head will not respond accurately to all flammable materials. A critical factor for waste management.
system6000 has been developed based on the EU standard for industrial trucks to be used in potentially explosive atmospheres EN1755:2000+A1:2013. The gas detection system has IECEx certification to IEC 60079 standards and can be fitted to diesel or electric forklift trucks, as well as other mobile equipment.
“We advise businesses to talk to Pyroban directly and arrange a site visit if necessary, if they are unsure of what they have on site or if they are specifying new trucks,” confirms Rob.