3 Safety Hazards Caused by Bridging, Ratholing, and Poor Material Flow

Engineer climbing ladder to solve material flow

Poor material flow doesn’t just affect productivity. It may lead to injury and hazardous plant environments, and compromise product safety.

Using an efficient flow aid, like AirSweep, can help protect the safety of your workers and your customers, and ensures that your company complies with industry regulations.

Fire hazards

A cheese company uses whey protein concentrate (WPC), which contains high moisture and fat and is prone to bridging over the discharge outlets. They had fluidizers and vibrators, but these still left a lot of caked material in the vessel.

Then one day, the caked material sparked a fire in one of their baghouses. Whey protein is classified as a combustible powder, and high concentrations can create a flammable environment.

While the fire was contained, bridging had become an urgent safety concern. They installed AirSweep, which cut through the sticky material and swept vessels completely clean. It now uses AirSweep in all its factories in the United States—to improve productivity and plant safety.

Many materials used in the food industry are classified as combustible: egg whites, powdered milk, cornstarch, sugar, flour, grain, potato, rice, etc. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, “The build-up of even a very small amount of dust can cause serious damage.”

The AirSweep USDA-accepted model can prevent material build-up and meets the sanitary requirements of the food industry.

Worker injury

Many plants resort to manual cleaning to clear stubborn material blocks. Workers have to hammer the vessel walls or climb into them to break up the blocks.

This process is tedious and exposes workers to several possible risks. Many powders and bulk solids can cause skin irritations or respiratory problems if they are directly handled or inhaled. Hammering and climbing into vessels can lead to falls and shoulder and back injuries.

Worker safety laws require companies to prevent worker injury and avoid giving tasks that the worker has not specifically been trained to do. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards include:

  • Prevent exposure to harmful levels of substances
  • Prevent exposure to loud noises that can damage hearing
  • Ensure the safety of workers climbing into enclosures such as bins
  • OSHA fines can reach up to $14,502 per violation. So, manual cleaning is neither an easy nor a cheap solution for material blocks.

Product spoilage and contamination

Ideally, materials in a vessel will have a first in/first out flow. This prevents spoilage and protects batch uniformity—and in some industries, like food and pharmaceuticals, this is critical for the consumer’s safety. Even cement can be unstable if the batch deviates from the correct proportions of materials.

Use AirSweep to solve poor material flow

AirSweep is used in those industries to achieve on-demand, first in/first out flow:

AirSweep can correct poor material flow to improve productivity and safety. Contact us to find out more about how AirSweep works, or ask for a customized proposal.

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