The role of packaging in explosion prevention

Industrial Packaging’s Technical Sales Team recently attended an explosion prevention training seminar, to learn more about how specialised dangerous goods packaging can help prevent explosions.

We learned, at the seminar, that up to 22% of industrial explosions in the UK and Ireland over the last ten years could have been mitigated by using more appropriate packaging, relative to the goods they contained and the work environment.

Graphic showing the elements needed for an explosion: oxygen, fuel and an ignition source. How explosions happen

Flammable products, liable to generate explosions will be classified as one of the following: Class 3 – Flammable Liquid, Class 4.1 Flammable Solid, Class 4.2 Substances Liable to spontaneous combustion, or Class 4.3 – Substances which in contact with water emit flammable gases. Examples include fine powders, metal powders, dust from extractor systems and liquids like alcohol, inks and paints, adhesives, or pesticides. Packaging for products which fall into the above chemical classes should be chosen carefully, to help reduce explosion risk.

At the training course, there were demonstrations such as the one in this video, showing us how easy it is for an explosion to occur in the workplace.

Pie chart showing what share of explosions happen for what reason. Causes of explosions

Learning about the major causes of explosions and how these can be mitigated helps us to reduce risks in the element that we control – the packaging – and also to advise our customers on how to do so in other areas.

Industrial Packaging supplies several different types of container which are UN-certified for the storage and transport of dangerous goods and are classified as “electrostatically dissipative” – a must for packing flammable products. These include specially developed fibre drums, plastic drums and IBC tanks, ranging from 6 to 1000 litres in capacity.

When we work with customers who manufacture, store or transport dangerous goods, a thorough risk assessment is carried out to determine the most appropriate type of container, with particular focus on electrostatic charging potentials and the presence of certain flammable gases.

Fibre drums

Operator filling fibre containment drum with liner. Fibre containment drum in use

Fibre drums are ideal for flammable solids like pharma powders, metal powders, extractor dust, pigments, ink powders. These special fibre containment drums incorporate a liner with a sampling arm, to contain hazardous dust during filling, emptying and sample-taking. Hazardous dust, when exposed to oxygen, may cause an explosion, so the above situations are where the risk is highest. The liners also prevent build-up of dangerous static charge (which could ignite an explosion), making these drums suitable for explosive areas.

Plastic drums

Operator filling conductive plastic drum Operator filling conductive plastic drum

For plastic drum solutions, we work with CurTec as their exclusive distributor for their high-performance packaging in Ireland, to offer both the very best quality packaging and related advice and expertise. Together, CurTec and Industrial Packaging have over 100 years of experience in packaging for industrial and distribution applications in the pharmaceutical, chemical and other industries. Pooling this experience helps us to come up with smarter, safer solutions for our customers.

There is, at present, little guidance addressing maximum values of resistance for static dissipative drums or IBCs, or other related guidance. This is one reason why our combined experience is so important: we need to use it to make practical decisions to keep our customers’ products and employees safe.

With CurTec, we can offer the specialised conductive drum range.

IBCs

Transparent industrial bulk container in metal cage with yellow corners IBC tank suitable for dangerous goods

For larger quantities of flammable liquids, we can supply an EX IBC tank specially designed for use in explosive zones. This container has a permanent anti-static outer layer, which mitigates the (common) risk of a container collapsing due to a vacuum building up within it, as a result of differences in temperature, hot filling, rapid emptying, etc. It is multi-layered, UV-stabilized and transparent, allowing any changes to the contents to be spotted quickly.