Explosion-Proof Forklifts Improve Safety at Chemical Warehouse

Specially equipped explosion-proof forklifts (Photo courtesy of Pyroban)

Specially equipped explosion-proof forklifts (Photo courtesy of Pyroban)

At the ADPO chemical warehouse on the left bank of the river Scheldt in Antwerp, Belgium, workers handle tanks and drums of highly volatile chemicals every day.

The materials are so combustible, that even the smallest spark is enough to cause enormous chemical explosions and fireballs to shoot hundreds of feet into the air. In these types of extreme conditions, an extraordinary type of forklift is required.

Explosion-Proof Forklifts

That’s why ADPO officials turned to Pyroban, a company that specializes in making highly volatile environment safer. The company fitted with ADPO’s forklift with special features that help prevent them from sparking and causing a potential explosion, according to Eelco Huisinga, Pyroban’s sales manager for the region.

“The trucks are handling many different flammable chemicals in sealed container, so a flammable atmosphere is not expected unless by accident,” Huisinga said in a company news release. “However, each solvent or chemical liquid has a different characteristic so we have to make sure the protection covers all potential flashpoints and temperature classes.”

Heat and Static Electricity

The biggest threats to worker safety are heat and static electricity, two things that most normal forklifts can have in droves. But the vehicles used to handle volatile chemicals need to always be calm, cool and collected.

That’s why Pryoban fitted ADPO’s more than 60 Toyota forklifts with their system6000D, which prevents explosions by combining gas detection with various explosion protection methods, including restricted breathing enclosures, stainless steel cladding for forks, and cooling units that keep the temperature of the vehicles’ engines, brakes, motors, electronics and other components below 275F, the flashpoint for many highly volatile flammable materials.

Built-In Safeguards

The forklifts also have a pellistor based gas detection system that detects a wide range of potential hazards at the ADPO facility. It auto-calibrates and self-tests every time the forklift is started to make sure the system is working properly so there can be no errors.

If anything is out of sync, the entire operation automatically shuts down to avoid a potential explosion, explained Karel Stoop, ADPO’s equipment manager.

“Through well-trained drivers and exceptional site planning and management, we have only had one system shutdown in the last ten years,” said Stoop. “This was the result of a tiny spillage from asmall drum, proving the sensitivity and instant response of the Pyroban system.”

Regular Safety Audits

Maintaining site safety is critical when workers are handling such volatile chemicals all the time. That’s why all critical components of the Pryoban anti-explosion systems are inspected and recorded annually — including explosion-proof enclosures, cables and glands, shutdown devices, conductivity, and fork cladding — in a safety audit known as EX-ASA.

“The EX-ASA ensures that the integrity and safety of the trucks is not compromised and gives us confidence that we are maintaining the equipment to the highest order,” said Stoop.

ADPO uses the specially equipped forklifts at its main 80,000 square feet chemical warehouse, as well as two other facilities.


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