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Safe handling solutions

20 June 2016

Food Processing spoke to James Podevyn, regional sales manager at Spiroflow, about safe handling solutions. 

Q: Can you talk us through some of the food industry sectors that require secure product handling of potentially combustible materials and explain what point in the handling operation is the most hazardous, and what advice can you offer to ensure safe product handling?

A: Any sector that utilises combustible ingredients such as sugar, flour, grains, some starches and some spices require safe handling. Food processors must understand the combustibility of their specific bulk solids, which is based on particle size, chemical composition and moisture content.

Any company that processes, conveys or mixes dry ingredients must ensure that dust is properly contained. Combustion can occur in any part of a process where fugitive dust can accumulate near an ignition source. An initial explosion can disperse additional dust and trigger secondary explosions that are often far more destructive.

Manufacturers need to consider the potentially dangerous elements that could exist in their environment and identify the method(s) that ensure a safe workplace. These might include selecting dust free process equipment; designing a system so that there are no metal to metal contact points; utilising anti-static materials to minimise static build up; ensuring that are properly earthed; incorporating a nitrogen purge to remove the oxygen and thus create a blanket for the process; utilising appropriate dust collection to minimise fugitive dust; and specifying explosion proof controls as per ATEX/NEMA standards.

Q: What application areas in particular require ATEX-approved solutions and why. Can you offer any advice on ensuring that ATEX/DSEAR directives are adhered to?

A: ATEX approved solutions are required for all manufacturing areas that contain potentially explosive environments and products. Spiroflow is well versed in the ATEX regulatory requirements for transporting and handling explosive. Although it is ultimately the responsibility of the manufacturer to understand their DSEAR (1999/92/EC) directive, we are happy to apply and share our knowledge. We can help determine the ATEX compliant, safest conveying, handling and weighing solutions available. Some considerations include:
•What are all the explosion prevention and protection measures recommended for your process and environment?
•What are the dust/gas explosion classifications in each area?
•What are the best methods to control emissions into the work area?
•What are the explosive potential (Kst) and minimum ignition energy of the material?
•What are the possible internal & external ignition sources?
•What secondary explosion risks exist?

Hazard recognition training for all employees is also critical as are effective housekeeping & preventative maintenance programs. Individual risk assessments must be carried out and Spiroflow can guide customers through this process to identify the different ATEX/DSEAR regulations and how they apply to achieve the correct conveying or bulk handling solution to fit these requirements.

Q: Could you talk us through a few of the conveying technologies available today to handle bulk solids and highlight some of their strengths and weaknesses.

A: Spiroflow offers the widest range of mechanical conveyors in the industry – flexible screw, aero mechanical, tubular cable drag, and tubular chain drag conveyors as well as pneumatic conveyors.

Flexible screw conveyors provide dust free, low energy, low maintenance and low cost conveying. They are ideal for sugar and flour because of their inherent construction. No friction heat build-up takes place as the UHMWPE conveying tube has a low coefficient of friction and allows the spiral to rotate easily. The external tube surfaces do not have a charging mechanism in normal operation. Anti-static tubes are available for materials sensitive to low energy discharges.

Aero mechanical conveyors are one of the most efficient methods of conveying materials due to their low energy and high throughput properties. They can be installed at any angle, even vertically, without loss of throughput. Total batch transfer is achievable. Rope life for the aero mechanical conveyor can be increased up to 40% with Spiroflow’s patented integrated ‘Dynamic Auto Rope Tensioner’ (DART) which automatically measures and adjusts rope tension.

Tubular cable drag conveyors are ideal for gentle handling of fragile products, and conveying in multiple planes from multiple in-feed points and to multiple discharge points. They utilise lower energy consumption compared to other conveyor types and are more mechanically reliable than bucket systems. They operate within the confines of a pipe for heavy-duty applications and are often used to transfer products such as nut shells, coffee fines and rice hulls.

Q: Spiroflow is best known for its flexible screw conveyors. What other products and solutions can you offer the food industry sector?

A: Spiroflow was launched with the flexible screw conveyor but our bulk material handling solutions have grown over the last 45 years and we can offer the widest range of food grade mechanical and pneumatic conveyors in the industry as well as bulk bag fillers, bulk bag dischargers, weighing systems and a variety of supporting equipment.

Our weighing and filling stations provide dust free and accurate filling of 1-2 tonne bulk bags. They incorporate an inflatable spout neck seal, bag inflation prior to filling to ‘pre-form’ the bag and product compaction and de-aeration during the filling cycle to provide a stable load for storage or transport.

Full ATEX compliance is also behind the upgrade of one of Spiroflow’s weigh fillers for pallet handled bags – the C1. Ideal for low to medium volume use where bulk bags filled on pallets are moved by forklift truck, the C1 facilitates dust-free, accurate filling of up to 20 bulk bags per hour.

We strive to provide the exact solution that is best for each customer’s application and are known for our custom engineered solutions. Our ATEX compliant conveyors, bulk bag dischargers, and fillers are built with all food safe materials of construction, incorporate venting systems, dust prevention features, earthing options, explosion proof controls and more to ensure safe, clean bulk material handling.

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