Flour can seriously damage your health – the risks you can’t see!
Specialist Industrial Vacuum Manufacturer Nilfisk-CFM discuss the dangers of flour dust.
Slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries at work and 90% of those injuries are broken bones.
What about the risks you can’t see? Dust build up on overhead pipes could result in an explosion? Even flour dust can constitute a real risk to health and is a known cause of occupational asthma given prolonged exposure.
These risks often go unnoticed in favour of wet floor signs and trailing cables but the reality is they could potentially be a lot more serious.
Other dusts like aluminium, fine sugars, starch, whey and chocolate powder etc. are known explosion risks. When mixed with copious quantities of air as a cloud these dusts only require a simple ignition source to produce devastating results. Furthermore when collected by a conventional vacuum cleaner the machine is also at risk of exploding.
Vacuum cleaners produce static electricity as the dust passes through the machine. Conventional vacuum cleaner motors also produce sparks from carbon brushes providing an ignition source to potentially light the touch paper!
The good news is that these risks have been recognised and technical solutions found which remove the risk of ignition. Machines specifically designed for removing combustible dusts are constructed in such a way that static electricity is safely routed to earth and the motors used do not create sparks.
The employer has legal duties under the ATEX 137 Directive to conduct a risk analysis on his processes (which include cleaning!) and to then select ATEX approved equipment intended for use in high risk areas. The employer also has duties under the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 that specifically include implementing control measures and providing equipment which reduces the quantity of dangerous dusts and therefore prevent explosive atmospheres. Manufacturers like Nilfisk-CFM have produced Safety Vacuum Cleaners that are specifically designed for the collection of combustible dusts. Only the specially notified Bodies to which the machines are submitted for testing can give the ATEX certification for equipment in potentially explosive atmospheres. The ATEX approval will be specific to the category of equipment and nature of the risk (combustible gas, vapour or dust etc) considering the particular hazardous zone etc. (e.g. zone 21, zone 22, zone 1 or zone 2.)
Examples of Companies who fail to adhere to the guidelines are plentiful with severe penalties levied both legally and financially.
Professional companies however such as Huntsman in Cambridge benefit from the right advice and the right equipment.
Best known for their production of ARALDITE® adhesives Huntsman also manufacture and market a wide range of differentiated chemicals to automotive, coatings, construction, aerospace, electronics and wind energy sectors.
The site is strictly regulated by the Environment Agency and regularly audited for COMAH compliance. Standards in place include ISO14001, OHSAS 18001 and aerospace certification EN 9100.
Health and Safety is therefore taken very seriously; with continuous re-training enforcing the company’s ethos ‘nothing we do is worth getting hurt for’.
Huntsman had two production issues that required a solution. Highly flammable resin residue, water and toluene were to be safely collected and then disposed of. Flame permits had previously been necessary but Nilfisk-CFM provided a solution with the A17 DAU (absolute filtration) vacuum cleaner. This Industrial machine is rated for Atex Zones 1 & 2 plus dust zones 21 & 22. The body of the unit is manufactured from 316 grade stainless steel and was supplied with a mechanical float system and drain plug.
After collection waste products are wetted out with water and sent to an in-house effluent plant for contaminated waste treatment.
Fine chemical powders rising to and settling on high level overhead pipe work was also a risk at Huntsman. Nilfisk-CFM provided a solution with the supply of an integrated 2 metre extension tube with specialist pipe brushes attached. This enables Huntsman staff to remain safely at ground level at all times during the cleaning process.
The advice is clear cut – be sure you know all the risks in your facility. Get sound advice, follow it and keep everyone safe. The Nilfisk-CFM team can be contacted on 01284 763163 www.nilfisk-cfm.co.uk.