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Risk of electrostatic ignition during FIBC discharging operations

EMS 200x150 09 19 enewsFlexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) have long been considered a great innovation in the transportation of dry flowable material since their introduction in the sixties. Commonly referred to as a “bulk bag”, “big bag” or “tote”, FIBCs have a body made of flexible woven material, typically the high strength thermoplastic, polypropylene, along with a linear insert. FIBCs are efficient, and transportation of dry bulk goods such as sand, fertilisers, plastic granules, seeds, resin and powder coatings, to name a few, can be unloaded at a fast rate, with anywhere between 300 – 500kg typically in 30 seconds or less.

Used in agricultural, chemical, food and pharmaceutical industries, FIBCs have proven to be simple to use, cost effective and strong, and are more convenient than rigid IBCs for powder transfers because they can be collapsed after use and stored away. However, the use of FIBCs are not without their risks and when filling and emptying FIBCs in hazardous areas, electrostatic charge can accumulate on both the contents (product) and the fabric of the material itself. It is common under these circumstances for the rates at which static electricity charges are generated to exceed the rates at which the charges can relax, allowing the accumulation of a static electric charge to develop within the process.

In the first of two incidents, an operator suffered a singed head, a burn to the back of their neck and a second-degree burn on their right arm. The second incident led to second and third-degree burns to their stomach and face too. As a result of the second static incident, the employee made the decision to leave his role, citing his apprehensive nature towards the job.

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