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How To Control The Risks Using Bulk Bags For Fine Powder

Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs), also known as bulk bags, are a common kind of industrial packaging that you can use for storing and shipping granulated materials and fine powders – and that’s when you may encounter electrostatic discharge.

An electrostatic discharge can be released from your bags whenever you’re using fine powders or loading them in or out, so it’s really important to understand the risks that come with this.

The level of risk really depends on the materials you’re storing in your bulk bags – it’s higher when you’re transporting or storing combustible or explosive materials in areas where you’ve also got flammable gases, vapours or dust clouds.

The types of electrostatic discharges

There are three kinds of electrostatic discharges that could come from your bulk bags:

1. Brush discharges

These come from standard insulating bulk bags and liners, and can ignite flammable gases or vapours.

2. Propagating brush discharges

Also from standard insulating bulk bags and liners, and are powerful enough to ignite dust clouds.

3. Spark discharges

From groundable bags that haven’t been grounded.

Reducing your risks

It’s easy to reduce the risks of electrostatic discharges, just by choosing the right packaging for your job and taking some simple precautions.

So, before you transport any materials, make sure that you know:

  • if the material is combustible or explosive
  • the material’s minimum ignition energy
  • whether there will be any flammable gases or vapours in the area where your bulk bags will be stored
  • the material’s electrostatic characteristics
  • which bulk bag you need (A, B, C, or D), based on their qualification tests

Whatever kind of bag you use, remember that the electrostatic characteristics of the materials you’re moving and storing won’t change.

Bulk bag liners

Using liners in your bulk bags is a great way to reduce the likelihood of electrostatic discharge. The type of liner you’re allowed to use will depend on the electrostatic characteristics of the materials you’re transporting. You can choose from:

– L1: conductive
– L2: semi-conductive or static dissipative
– L3: insulating

When you’re choosing your liner, remember to complete a risk assessment, talk to your industrial packaging provider and take into account surface resistivity, breakdown voltage, liner thickness and resistance.

Employee health and safety

Electrostatic discharges present a risk to your staff whenever they’re handling your bulk bags or working in areas where they’re stored. As their employer, it’s your responsibility to keep them safe – so make sure you carry out risk assessments and put the right safeguards in place for the materials you’re transporting or storing and the level of risk of an electrostatic discharge. So, for example, if the minimum ignition energy is above 50 mJ, your bulk bags should be grounded, your team should be given grounding personal safety equipment like grounding wrist straps or footwear, and you’ll need anti-static flooring or conductive mats.

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