Explosion safety

  • Publicatie datum May 22, 2023
  • Auteur Joost van Hulst
  • Laatst aangepast May 22, 2023

Explosion safety is critical in various industries where potential explosion hazards exist. You can think of industrial sectors, such as the chemical, pharmaceutical and food processing industries.

An explosion can cause serious damage and personal injury, so it is important to ensure that all work is performed according to proper guidelines to ensure an explosion-proof environment.

What is explosion hazard?

Explosion hazard is the risk of an explosion occurring in a given environment. An explosion is a sudden and powerful burst of gas, vapor, mist or dust that can result in devastating property damage, injury or even death to persons.

There are several factors that can contribute to the creation of explosion hazards, including the presence of flammable substances such as gases, liquids or dust, the presence of an ignition source such as sparks or hot surfaces, and the presence of oxygen.

We can distinguish explosion hazards into three different categories. The most important of these are gas explosion hazard, fog explosion hazard and dust explosion hazard.

Gas explosion hazard

Gas explosion hazard can occur when there is a high concentration of flammable gases, such as propane or methane, in the air. If a spark occurs, it can lead to an explosion that causes extensive damage and personal injury.

This can happen, for example, in the petrochemical industry or in the production of gas cylinders.

Spray explosion hazard

Spray explosion hazard occurs when there is a high concentration of flammable liquids in the air in the form of mist. When a spark occurs, it will result in an explosion.

A spray explosion can occur in the paint industry or when using certain chemicals.

Dust explosion hazard

Dust explosion hazards are a risk in the food industry and other industries where powders are handled, such as the chemical industry.

Dust explosions can occur when a high concentration of fine dust particles is present in the air and a spark occurs.

When there is a risk of explosion in a work environment, there are legal obligations that employers must comply with. These obligations are set out in the European ATEX standard, which apply to work environments where explosion hazards may occur.

All European member states must incorporate the ATEX directives into national legislation. In the Netherlands, the directives are included in the Commodities Act and the Working Conditions Act.

The ATEX directives are divided into two categories: ATEX 114 and ATEX 153. ATEX 153 focuses on the protection of workers from explosive atmospheres, while ATEX 114 deals primarily with the manufacturers of explosion-proof equipment and the certification of this equipment.

Improve explosion safety within a company or organization

Explosion safety according to ATEX guidelines can help minimize the risks of explosions in potentially explosive environments. There are several ways in which the ATEX directives can improve explosion safety within companies and organizations.

1. Identification of potentially explosive environments.

ATEX requires employers to identify all potentially explosive environments and then classify them according to the degree of risk. This can help reduce risk and develop a safety plan to ensure explosion safety.

2. Use of explosion-proof equipment

The ATEX 153 also requires the use of explosion-proof equipment. This type of equipment is specially designed to prevent the generation of sparks that can cause an explosion.

The use of explosion-proof equipment can significantly reduce the risk of an explosion. In addition, explosion-proof equipment must comply with the ATEX 114 directive.

3. Employee training

Employees working in potentially explosive environments must be properly trained to know the proper procedures and safety precautions.

Employers should ensure that employees, who work in explosive environments, take an explosion safety course.

4. Periodic inspections

Periodic inspections of workers and explosion-proof equipment within ATEX zones is also among the requirements for employers.

This should be done to ensure that all equipment and procedures still meet safety standards and regulations.

Regular inspections allow potential problems to be identified and resolved before they lead to catastrophic consequences.

Measures that can be taken to reduce explosion hazards

Explosion hazards can be prevented by taking several measures.

The following measures apply to both gas and dust explosion hazards:

  • Working under ventilation conditions can also help eliminate explosion hazards because the concentration of the lower explosion limit cannot be reached.
  • Working under low-oxygen conditions (inerting) is an effective way to eliminate explosion hazards.
  • Replace flammable substance with one that has less or no flammable properties.
  • Keep combustible dust within the enclosure of the plant and not allow it to mix with the environment.
  • Remove ignition sources in areas where there is a risk of explosion or make ignition sources comply with appropriate protective measures.

Specific dust explosion hazards can also be mitigated in other ways, namely:

  • Preventive: Prevent the agitation of combustible dust in areas where ignition sources may be present, for example, by regular cleaning.
  • Repressive: Prevent a dust cloud from igniting if prevention is not possible or fails, by using explosion-proof equipment.
  • Control: Limit the damage caused by an explosion if prevention and suppression are not possible or fail, for example by installing an explosion hatch. Also ensure that an initial small explosion cannot lead to an even larger secondary explosion.

Start making the ATEX zones within your company or organization safe

Are you employed or do you have a company or organization in which there are explosive environments? Then identifying and classifying these so-called ATEX zones is the first step.

Then you start working on the basis of the ATEX directives to make the hazardous areas meet the set requirements. Some of these requirements relate to marking the zones and limiting ignition sources.

One way to limit ignition sources is to install an ESD floor (antistatic floor). This will prevent electrostatic discharges that can occur in areas with electronic equipment.

In addition, the ATEX zones will have to be clearly marked by means of lines and hazard signs. Clearly defining the hazardous areas is exceptionally emphasized from the ATEX guidelines.

Also read: what is an ATEX zone?

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Joost van Hulst
Joost van HulstCEO

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