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Hazardex 2017 Awards - 1. Contribution to Safety - 1A. BPE Design and Support – Dust explosion risk reduction Tool Kit

19 January 2017

BPE Design and Support Full Entry: The project came from a recognition that, whilst there is a clear legal requirement to reduce the risk from explosive dusts and a requirement to carry out a hazardous area classification, there is no rigorous approach to dust explosion risk reduction that can be carried out in a simple step by step approach.

The aim of this project was to develop a rigorous approach to dust explosion risk reduction to be incorporated into a Tool Kit that allows professional engineers and other safety professionals to easily follow the approach.


1. The first set of objectives of the project were to develop an innovative approach to the following:-
a. A more scientific approach to the hazardous area classification of dusts.
b. A true risk assessment covering the risk of an explosion occurring and the severity and consequences of a dust explosion.
c. A route map for a rigorous approach to dust explosion risk reduction.
d. Integrating risk reduction by replacing/reducing combustible dusts, reducing dispersion mechanisms, carrying out a hazardous area classification and eliminating or mitigating the consequences of an explosion.
e. Extending the review of sources of ignition to all credible sources and not just electrical and mechanical equipment e.g. equipment covered by the European ATEX directive.

2. Testing the approach on professional engineers not involved in the project and by using it on live projects

3. Creating a Tool Kit and disseminating information on the approach to dust explosion risk reduction via a series of webinars that use language and techniques accessible to professional engineers and
process safety specialists.

This project was based on previous experience of risk assessments, hazardous area classification (HAC) and risk reduction exercises related to the selection and purchase of industrial scale hazardous area equipment and also compliance with the requirements of Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR).

The initial focus was to develop a more scientific approach to HAC for dust explosions, dust dispersion mechanisms and the probability of an explosive atmosphere forming. An extensive literature search was carried out with the assistance of a research assistant from The University, of Nottingham resulting in the writing of a paper for presentation at Hazards XXIV. This work allowed a better understanding of the dispersion mechanisms and formed the basis for a more scientific approach to HAC. Some simple calculations based on some of the data collected and verified by work carried out the industrial scale experiments (by other researchers and reported in the literature) form part of this scientific approach.

The literature search also started the development of the route map. Cloney et al used an unwrapped explosion pentagon as part of their analysis in their paper, “Development of an organizational framework for studying dust explosion phenomena”. This led to the major innovative step to relate the unwrapped pentagon to the steps required for a rigorous approach to dust explosion risk reduction. This approach results in a true risk assessment since it considers both the risk of creating an explosive atmosphere and of an ignition plus the consequence of an explosion and go well beyond an HAC, which is frequently the only part of the risk reduction exercise carried out.

The next innovative step was to take the unwrapped pentagon and develop a simple logical route map with a step wise examination of each part of the unwrapped pentagon, to integrate the legal requirements of DSEAR and HAC and to consider well know prevention or mitigation methods. This route map also includes the examination of dispersion mechanisms, not just to allow the size of hazardous zones to be assessed, but also to consider the possibility of eliminating or reducing the dispersion. The project identified that there are many potential sources of ignition and that installing equipment that is certified for use in relevant hazardous zones is unlikely to eliminate/reduce all sources of ignition. The generation of static electricity, process sources of ignition and the impact of engineering maintenance/modifications are all significant sources of ignition that need to be considered.

The rigorous approach/route map have been incorporated in the peer reviewed Tool Kit and a series of webinars that provide a detailed description of how the approach works. The webinars have been reviewed by professional colleagues and have been presented as IChemE approved training.

The approach has also been tested on different types of processes including a pharmaceutical solid dosage plant, a creams manufacturing plant and equipment for shot blasting metal and plastic parts.

The Tool Kit continues to be developed as new information becomes available and a third series of IChemE webinars is planned for 2017.

The technical success of this project has been demonstrated in a number of ways. Firstly the rigorous approach developed has been used to significantly reduce the dust explosion risks associated with a major pharmaceutical tablets, capsules and creams manufacturing facility. It has also been used as the basis for a number of other industrial processes. The detailed background to the Tool Kit and the rigorous assessment route map has been covered by a series of webinars in the last quarter of 2015 and in June 2016, these webinars were well received, including many positive comments. The webinar attendees have been/will be given an abridged version of the Tool Kit for their own use.

As a result of the publicity, Keith Plumb was invited to speak at a Masterclass in Chemical Process Safety at the University of Limerick in August 2016. Here Keith explained the basics of the Tool Kit along with a workshop session to allow the delegates to make use of the some of the techniques.

The principles behind the Tool Kit have also been used to develop an in-house training programme for Jaguar Land Rover.

Sadly, as many historical incidents have shown, dust explosions are a significant cause of death and major injuries, along with a serious adverse impact on the neighbours of manufacturing facilities and the local environment as well, of course, as being highly destructive to manufacturing facilities. The current legal framework in Europe and elsewhere partially addresses the issues but there is a compelling need to strengthen the approaches currently available.

The Tool Kit and the logical rigorous approach to the risk assessment contained within it provides a major enhancement to the current legal framework and develops current industrial practice in a way that is easily understood and fully accessible to professional engineers and other safety professionals. The Tool Kit has applicability across all process and manufacturing sectors where combustible dusts are used or manufactured. An example of where it would have been applicable is the Jiangsu Kunshan metal polishing factory in China where over 65 people were killed.

Making more professional engineers and safety professional aware of the Tool Kit is likely to make a major contribution to the reduction of risks from dust explosions. Granting an award to this project will help to raise the awareness and hence help make this major contribution to risk reduction more likely.

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