Safeguard Grain Handling Facilities with Explosion-Proof Vacuums

Grain_Facility

Explosion-Proof Vacuums for Grain Handling Facilities

Grain is a large worldwide market; and some of the largest-producing countries are located in North and South America. The backbone of the food supply chain, grain processing facilities like grain elevators, storage units, and feed mills, face a constant and serious threat: dust explosions. Grain dust is highly combustible, and when mixed with air in the right proportions, even a small spark can trigger a devastating explosion.

About Grain Processing Facilities

This can include grain elevators, grain storage facilities, grain processing facilities, grain bins, flour mills, rice mills, and dry corn mills. They all receive, store, and then distribute bulk material. Some facilities do processing work like wheat grinding and sifting, and soybean flaking operations. Their purpose is to store the harvest until it is required for use throughout the year.

The modern grain elevator was invented in 1847 in Buffalo, New York to speed up grain loading onto trains. Using gravity, these early elevators drastically improved efficiency. The basic design remains largely unchanged, with steam replaced by electricity.

How do they work?

  • Grain dust comes to the facility in trucks or trains and is dumped in a pit.
  • An elevator of some sort, normally a bucket elevator, will bring the material to the top, often called Texas House or head house.
  • Conveyors bring the material inside the Texas House to the top of the appropriate silo and start filling.
  • When it comes time the product is needed, the silo is emptied via gravity into the pit conveyor.
  • The pit conveyor brings the material back to the bucket elevator where the material is brought back up to a loading silo.
  • This silo allows a truck or train to be fed, again using gravity.
  • The transfer of all this material produces a lot of dust.

Although the design of grain elevators and how they work has remained mainly unchanged, new technology such as industrial vacuums have become even more powerful and safe.

Potential Hazards

Grain Handling Safety Standards and Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plays a critical role in ensuring worker safety in these facilities. Their recently updated regulations (1910.272) emphasize grain handling safety standards and focus on preventing dust explosions. These regulations require a comprehensive dust control program that includes:

  • Engineering Controls: Implementing ventilation systems and other measures to minimize dust accumulation.
  • Work Practices: Establishing safe work practices, such as regular cleaning and equipment maintenance of grain handling equipment.
  • Housekeeping: The National Grain and Feed Association highlights priority housekeeping areas in their Safety and Health Compliance Manual. Maintaining a clean work environment through proper cleaning methods is vital, which is where explosion-proof vacuums come in.

The Role of Explosion-Proof Vacuums in Grain Storage

While OSHA doesn’t explicitly mandate explosion-proof vacuums, they do emphasize the need for equipment that won’t generate sparks during operation. Explosion-proof industrial vacuums are specifically designed to meet these grain elevator regulations.

Benefits of Explosion-Proof Vacuums

These vacuums are crucial for safe grain storage by:

  • Minimizing Explosion Risk: Their design eliminates potential ignition sources, significantly reducing the risk of dust explosions.
  • Enhanced Safety: They promote a safer work environment for employees.
  • Improved Efficiency: Regular cleaning with explosion-proof vacuums helps maintain proper airflow and equipment efficiency.

Finding the Right Explosion-Proof Vacuum

Given the ways in which facilities can differ and all the current regulations, getting the best equipment for your needs can be overwhelming. Industry leaders like Goodway have a full staff of experts available to help, and engineers to design custom solutions if needed.

Some things to consider include:

  • Bulk density of product
  • Texture of materials: dry free-flowing, damp and clumpy, etc.
  • Layer density of area to be cleaned
  • Amount of material to be cleaned at a given time
  • Elevation above sea level of vacuum installation
  • Maximum particle size/maximum hose size required to effectively clean the area
  • The National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA) and OSHA have limits to the diameter and length of the hose to maintain continuity. They also require minimum conveying velocities to safeguard against material drop out in the hose.

One of the biggest things to consider while shopping for explosion proof vacuums is the filtration system. Having a primary filter that is properly sized for the airflow and is fully grounded to prevent static is imperative.

Other things to consider:

The ideal explosion-proof vacuum for your facility depends on several factors:

  • Application: Understanding the specific hazardous materials present in your environment and identifying the classification and division of your hazardous location will be the biggest factor when determining the right explosion-proof vacuum. Consider the type of material you’ll be vacuuming (grain dust, other debris).
  • Power Source: Choose between electric or compressed air-powered vacuums.
  • Capacity: The size and capacity of the vacuum will depend on the volume of dust.
  • Filtration: Having a primary filter that is properly sized for the airflow and is fully grounded to prevent static is imperative. Servicing vacuum filters should be effortless with no risk of a dust cloud. Goodway’s external shaker system allows you to clean the filters externally preventing operator exposure to the dust entirely.
  • Portability: Consider ease of maneuverability for different cleaning tasks, such as reaching tight spaces around grain drag conveyors.

Goodway Technologies offers an extensive line of powerful explosion-proof vacuums, with experienced experts ready to advise what is right for each unique grain handling facility. This includes

  • DV-M2 is powerful, portable, anti-static and equipped with a long-lasting filter. It is perfect for general cleaning in a non-rated atmosphere.
  • VAC-EX2-200H is certified for Class II Div 2 and an excellent choice for overhead cleaning and general housekeeping
  • DV-AV9-EX Air powered for highest level of protection, certified for Class I and Class II, Division 1 environments, and compatible with carbon fiber tools, grounded hoses and accessories
  • Compact Central Systems are custom-built tubing and fittings systems that meet NFPA standards for safe combustible dust collection, ensuring regulatory compliance. These central vacuum systems extend the reach of your vacuum and offer lightweight and high-quality accessories designed specifically for combustible dust.
    • Compact central systems are compatible with various Goodway general use and explosion-proof vacuums that offer single and multi-operator use.

Additional Considerations: Small Grain Elevator Cleaning

There are options for smaller grain elevator cleaning machines as well. These machines are designed for handling smaller volumes of grain and may be more manageable and portable for certain applications.

In addition to high-quality industrial vacuums, Goodway offers many industrial cleaning machines that can be used to clean grain legs and other areas.

Conclusion

Grain dust explosions are a serious threat, but they can be prevented. By implementing a comprehensive dust control program that includes proper cleaning with explosion-proof vacuums, you can create a safer work environment for your employees, comply with grain elevator regulations, and ensure the smooth operation of your grain processing facility. Remember, consulting with a qualified safety professional is crucial to ensure your facility adheres to all current OSHA regulations.

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