Mining & Resources / Planning & Design / Technology

Dust explosions in Europe: A preview of new trends and legislation for improving safety

While the scientific properties and risks of dust explosions are global, Europe remains a leader in standardising regulations for industrial hazards. Given that Europe is also the manufacturing origin of many design parts used in Australasian processing facilities and storage plants, we were delighted to have Gerard van Laar, Senior Consulting Scientist at Inburex (Germany) join us to discuss some of Europe’s new trends and recommendations for improving safety.

Mr Van Laar has extensive experience consulting governmental agencies and companies related to feed, food, wood, biomass, coal, fuel (natural gas), power generating, metal, plastics, solvents, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Gerard

Most plants will have new and second hand mechanical and electrical components from around the world. What role do ATEX guidelines have for an Australian plant?

ATEX guidelines are for intended for use in Europe. Australia has its own legislation which is comparable to ATEX.  So the ATEX guidelines in principle have no role in Australia. But if you have ATEX certified equipment in your plant in the several hazardous area it means that that equipment will be safe to use even if they do not comply to Australian legislation. So when present in existing plants replacement by IECEX Australian certified equipment is a mere waste of money. Of course when building new installations, use the IECEX certified equipment.

What levels of international cooperation is there between the regulatory authorities, manufacturers, importers and distributors in the EU, USA and Australia?

Cenelec and IEC work closely (are even located in the same building as far as I remember) together but there is less cooperation within USA-Europe people. Manufacturers are often directly involved in the working groups since they have the technical know-how.

How regularly are ATEX guidelines revised?

In fact hardly and only when practical problems are being noticed. The ATEX95 has been recently changed into ATEX114, but the practical effects on users is minimal.

Image of dust explosion fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, USA which killed 14 and injured 38 others

Image of dust explosion fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, USA which killed 14 and injured 38 others

Bucket elevators are widely used in the handling of large quantities of bulk powders. What prompted the new guides of practice for bucket elevator dust explosion safety?

Since it’s is a fairly dangerous piece of equipment protection was always needed but not clear how to do it in an efficient and safe way. Likely the explosion in the sugar bucket elevator in Sydney prompted a German organisation to look how realistic protection is possible. From their work and the older work from the UK the new guides of practice were developed.

This will be your third presentation at our Dust Explosions conference. Has the conversation over risk changed throughout the years?

Not that much in the basics. But simple risk diagrams are more and more used to get a qualitative or semi-quantitative way to estimate the risks and decide what actions shall be taken.

What are some of the trends emerging in risk reduction methods?

More and more it is less accepted to base of safety on prevention such as preventing effective ignition sources alone. Therefore explosion venting and suppression are more widely accepted and used. The methods are mainly the same in their basics, some new companies come.

Mr van Laar’s presentation at the 2016 Dust Explosions conference in Brisbane this October will provide a review of recent incidents and offer practical and cost-effective advice for explosion safety.

For more information on the Dust Explosions conference, http://www.informa.com.au/dustexplosions16

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