Rob Vesty explains how to specify an explosion proof forklift correctly in seven simple steps
Thousands of businesses use forklift trucks in hazardous areas where even the smallest spark could ignite the atmosphere and cause an explosion. Here are seven simple steps to ensure you get the best kit.
1. Hazardous area classification – Establish the Zones
A chemical factory, waste treatment plant, distillery and even a food processing operation may be handling flammable material which means they must comply with the latest health and safety requirements, including ATEX 1999/92/EC in Europe.
In the first instance, a site assessment and hazardous area classification should have been conducted by the site’s management team which will determine the level of risk and if the areas are Zone 1, 2, 21 or 22.
2. Substance characteristics – Gas Group and Temperatures
These Zones will dictate the level of protection required on the forklift, but there are a few other factors relating to the substances handled, which define how the forklift will be converted. The more information provided about the site the better as this will help define the safest and most cost effective solution.
For gas and vapour hazards, what is the Gas Group and Temperature Class (also known as auto-ignition temperature) of the substances handled? Pyroban conversions, for example, comply with IIB gas groups as standard, which will cover the majority of applications. A Temperature Class of T4 is the higher requirement but should not be used as a default as T4 requires a higher level of engineering and test which will involve more cost.
For dust and powders, more information is required which reflects the complexities of protecting against dust. What is the Cloud Ignition Temperature and the Dust Layer Ignition Temperature? If the full details are unknown for dust applications, Pyroban offers a standard package where all surface temperatures are restricted to 150°C, but this must be accepted by the site.
3. Forklift make and model
The end user should then approach their chosen forklift supplier(s) for quotations, but it is possible to also involve an explosion proofing specialist in the early stages. A company like Pyroban that converts forklift trucks can provide impartial advice specifically about the safety conversion.
The conversion company will need to know the make and model of the forklift including any variations. It is also important to be clear about the language requirements so that the correct labelling and instruction documents are provided, and to ensure compliance with import and export requirements.
4. The application
What will the truck be doing and in what ambient temperature? Multi-shift continuous work or intermittent use
As part of the protection method, surface temperatures may be limited which can have an effect on the equipment’s work cycle, especially if it is working in a high ambient temperature. Pyroban, for example, can adapt the solution accordingly.
5. Electric or diesel?
On electric trucks, the battery details will allow Pyroban to provide pricing for a certified battery, should it be required.
On diesel trucks, with the continuing changes in engine technology Pyroban would require the full engine make and model accompanied by a specification sheet if available. If the vehicle is fitted with diesel particulate filter (DPF) or exhaust gas regeneration (EGR) the conversion company will need to know and, in some cases, it may not be possible to convert the truck.
All components found on the forklift have to be assessed and modified where necessary, which includes all accessories and attachments such as lights, wipers, beacons, alarms and fleet management systems.
Not only could they present a risk of explosion, they may interfere with the standard conversion process. For example, on some conversions it is not possible for the rear window to be fitted with a hinged opening as sometimes explosion proof items may be fitted in the path of the opening sweep.
In some cases, Pyroban may offer the 'function' which may not always be in the identical format received on the vehicle, for example a combination light unit may be replaced with separate units.
7. Approvals and any additional information
There may be other specific information about the site to consider, for example, the business may require a third party certificate from a notified body under the ATEX Directives in order to satisfy their health and safety requirements.
Rob Vesty is with Pyroban.