Wood dust – harmless byproduct or explosive hazard?

Our client is a major port operator which had a tenant on their premises. The tenant was involved with the storage, processing, and handling of wood pellets. The tenant had not considered their obligations under the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR). We explained to the client that they had a duty to coordinate with the tenant under DSEAR to assess and manage the risk of potentially explosive atmospheres.

The tenant was importing wood pellets from Eastern Europe. The wood pellets would be offloaded into a warehouse bay where the pellets would be stored. The wood pellets were then fed from a hopper to be sorted to the size required using vibrating screens. The wood pellets were then moved via conveyors to the discharge point. The wood dust generated from the handling and processing of the wood pellets was considerable and therefore posed a risk of generating a potentially explosive atmosphere.

During the assessment, it was found that the local exhaust ventilation was not adequately integrated with the process. We helped advise on changes that can be made to the existing system to increase the efficiency of dust collection and minimise the extent of zoned areas. This drastically reduced the cost of replacing equipment with ATEX-rated equipment designed to operate in potentially explosive atmospheres saving the client £750,000. Additionally, the fine dust extracted from the wood pellets was discharged to the ground. We helped develop a bagging solution to minimise the dust generated from the discharge of wood dust to the ground.

It was important to ensure that both parties were involved in the process of assessing the risk posed by the potentially explosive atmosphere generated by the wood dust. When the Explosion Protection Document was completed, it was presented to both parties to ensure everyone understood the risks, controls, and mitigation measures in place to reduce the risk. Our clients also benefited by reducing their exposure to risk and gained the knowledge to better understand their duties under DSEAR allowing them to work more closely with their tenants to properly manage their risks.

If you need any help with DSEAR or combustible dust, please don’t hesitate to contact [email protected].


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