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Handling Hazardous Ingredients in Bulk Bags

Bulk material handling

Handling hazardous ingredients in bulk bags requires careful attention to safety and compliance. That’s why this guide covers the essential practices for managing risks associated with static discharge, explosive dust, and direct health hazards, ensuring the protection of people, property, and the environment during transportation and storage.

Bulk bags are increasingly used to ship ‘hazardous’ dry bulk solid materials. Hazardous materials pose risks to safety, health, and the environment, but proper ingredient handling minimizes the potential for accidents. To avoid the inherent risks, such as explosions or toxic exposures, you will need to comply with regulatory standards and safeguard workplace and public safety.

Why Is Handling Hazardous Ingredients in Bulk Bags Important? 

Let’s start by clarifying the term ‘hazardous.’ According to the United Nations, ‘hazardous goods’ are identified as articles or substances that present a considerable threat to individuals, health, property, or the environment when moved in large amounts. We’ll focus on three potential hazards that can arise during bulk bag handling:

  • Static discharge – Bulk solids within a bulk bag may generate enough static charge to ignite flammable vapors, gases, or dust.
  • Explosive dust – Bulk solids whose dust, if allowed to accumulate in a high enough concentration, may explode if exposed to a suitable ignition source.
  • Health hazard – Bulk solids that present a health hazard to humans via direct contact.
Rows of filled white bulk bags

How to Handle Hazardous Ingredients Safely? 

When it comes to optimizing your conveyor solutions, you need to have everything covered – from proper equipment use to specific safety practices. These are designed to mitigate risks associated with static discharge, explosive dust, and direct contact hazards. With the right knowledge and tools, businesses can maintain safe solutions and work environments while handling dangerous substances.

Dissipating Static

There are two ways to mitigate the risk of static discharge – bulk bag design (and bulk bag filler) and bulk bag unloader equipment design. Of the four bulk bag types (Type A, B, C, and D), typically only types C and D are used to prevent static discharge leading to explosions.

Type C bulk bags feature conductive fabric, threads, or filaments woven into non-conductive fabric. The key factor is that Type C bags must have a grounding point to which all fabric, threads, or filaments are connected. The grounding point must then be connected to an external ground point during the filling and discharging of the bulk bag.

Type D bulk bags are constructed from fabric that allows static charge to be dissipated without being connected to the ground. So, the main advantage is not making a ground connection with the bag before filling and unloading – a task that can be forgotten, sometimes resulting in disaster.

Equipment used in situations where static discharge could ignite flammable substances must, as a minimum, have ground lugs. Depending on the Area Classification, electrical components may have to be explosion rated.

A bag dump station with a dust vent

Dust Containment

If the product you are filling or discharging can cause an explosion and a high enough concentration of dust is exposed to an ignition source, dust containment is critical. Bulk bag fillers must have ‘twin-tube’ fill heads and provide a tight seal with the bulk bag inlet spout. The outer tube of the fill head must then be connected to the dust collection system so that dust-laden air that is displaced during the filling process is safely extracted.

The bulk bag unloader must have dust containment features suitable for the hazard level. There are different levels of dust containment available. All equipment must feature electric components rated for the Area Classification. So, when choosing the right industrial conveyor systems, ensure you research all the aspects of your production needs. 

Isolate Human Contact

Bulk solids that are health hazards include various refined metals that are carcinogens and chemical compounds that cause respiratory problems. When dealing with these products, maximum dust containment is required. Specialized unloading equipment is available for this application. Such equipment must contain dust at the following critical steps in the bulk bag unloading process:

  • Initial onset of product discharge – The point in time when the product begins to flow from the bulk bag can create a large amount of dust.
  • Throughout bulk bag emptying – Of course, dust must be contained as the bulk bag is emptying.
  • End of discharge – Near the end of the discharge cycle, the bulk bag will lose its shape. The bulk bag unloader must be designed to maintain dust containment integrity at this crucial stage.
  • Bag removal – Removing the empty bulk bag, still full of dust-laden air, must be done safely without exposing operators to dust.

Furthermore, bulk bags must be designed to prevent the escape of product particles during handling – otherwise referred to as ‘sifting.’ Coated or lined bags can be specifically designed to suit the product and the hazard.

Bulk bag unloader and sack-tip station

Partner With One of the Best Conveyor Systems Manufacturers on the Market 

If you want to have the best possible product handling, you need to make a strategic move. This is a must, especially when seeking to enhance the handling of hazardous ingredients in bulk bags efficiently and safely. 

Spiroflow stands out as a premier choice in this realm, offering cutting-edge conveyor technologies that include advanced belt conveyor solutions tailored to meet specific industry needs. Contact us today to explore how our expertise as belt conveyor manufacturers can elevate your handling processes to the next level.