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Inks and packaging industry to address explosion risk

19 April 2011

Forklifts handling flammable material in the inks and packaging industry have the potential to cause an explosion, according to safety company Pyroban. While many businesses correctly choose explosion proof forklifts, many use standard trucks, placing their staff and business at constant risk.

“There is no doubt that explosion proof forklifts are critical for any solvent based ink manufacturing and packaging printing operation, including in-plant satellite operations” explains Darren Boiling, customer services manager for Pyroban. “It is important for businesses to know the risks of handling flammable materials and to use the right equipment” he says, explaining that standard forklifts can be converted using Pyroban explosion proof technology. 
Without Pyroban safety systems, standard forklifts could ignite solvent vapour fumes in many ways, such as through hot spots on the engine exhaust or motors, arcs and sparks from components such as switches and motors or friction and static caused by the truck’s forks and tyres.

For inks and packaging manufacturing operations, the need for Pyroban protected forklifts begins as soon as raw materials arrive from the chemical distributors, continues during the production process, and carries right through to the storage and despatch of finished products. Darren Boiling advises that diesel forklifts used in Zone 2 areas, for example, where flammable inks, solvents and other ingredients are received or stored, have the potential to pose safety threats without the appropriate protection. He goes on to explain “often, diesel trucks are handling sealed containers, so a release of vapour is not expected unless there is an accident.  In these cases, trucks should be fitted with Pyroban’s system 6000 to actively detect any flammable vapours and to immediately shutdown the trucks if there is a problem”.

System 6000 combines a range of explosion protection methods to ensure that any component on the forklift cannot be an ignition source, making the entire truck ATEX* compliant. The engine temperatures are reduced, switches and motors assessed and modified and even the forks are clad in stainless steel to reduce spark potential.  In addition, the system includes an automatic gas test on start-up to check that it is correctly calibrated and working every single day as required by the harmonised European standard EN 1755:2000+A1:2009. In post production storage areas, including those in satellite operations and 3rd party logistics providers, blended inks are often sealed in pails, drums or IBCs.  Areas are also usually zone 2 and material should typically be handled by equipment fitted with similar protection systems such as system 6000.  Reach trucks, VNA machines or counterbalance equipment can all be modified. “In the event of solvent spillage in Zone 2 areas, system 6000 will alarm, automatically shutdown the truck and prevent the possibility of an explosion” Darren says.  

A greater risk of flammable atmosphere exists in production areas considered zone 1 where vats and blenders are open to atmosphere and small electric trucks are typically required. “Despite local and background ventilation and risk management, there is always the potential for flammable solvent vapour in the atmosphere and for spillages to occur” explains Darren. “Production operations need trucks to be able to operate safely and productively should these potential situations arise”. Pyroban technology for Zone 1 areas provides the highest level of protection (2G) and is therefore essential to ensure the trucks are safe and ATEX compliant for use in these hazardous areas.  Protection methods are passive and typically include Ex’d’ explosion proof enclosures. “Pyroban works together with leading forklift service providers to ensure the correct equipment is specified, and trains engineers to ensure the equipment is then maintained properly”. Darren concludes “Safety should be approached as a priority in the inks, packaging and related logistics industries.  Unfortunately, not all businesses, including satellite in-plant operations, are aware of the risks their employees face on a daily basis when using standard forklifts”. Pyroban can also provide explosion risk management support, including hazardous area classification and training services.

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