Operator responsibility as risk factor
Non-compliance with operator obligations can lead to severe punishments. In order to create an appropriate working environment and to implement all regulations correctly, operators have to establish clear rules and to ensure that they are complied with.
In manufacturing industries, the occupational and operational safety of employees is one of the key issues that any operator faces. International laws, such as the European directives 2009/104/EC and 98/24/EC, regulate the protection of employees when handling potentially combustible materials.
Basic operator obligations
These directives require the employer in principle to carry out a risk assessment and to select the necessary protective measures according to the current safety standards. In general, technical safety measures have priority over organizational and personal protective measures. When working in potentially explosive environments, the operator is required to prepare an explosion protection document as part of the risk assessment.
This contains e. g. the identified hazards, a zone classification depending on the degree of danger, and an explosion protection concept which identifies the resulting safety precautions. Basic requirements for the work equipment demand, amongst others, that:
- Work equipment is provided with the required safety equipment.
- Installation or replacement of parts and maintenance work can be performed as far as possible without dismantling the safety equipment.
- Protective devices cannot be bypassed or rendered ineffective.
- Safety systems in potentially explosive areas comply with Directive 2014/34/EU (ATEX).
However, the operator’s duties do not end with the initial commissioning of the system. Rather, starting from this point, the complex control and documentation of these processes and their adherence begins. With regard to protection and safety equipment, it is the responsibility of the operator to ensure that they are functional in the day-to-day operation and cannot be easily manipulated nor circumvented
The difference between theory and practice
What at first glance seems easy and sensible often causes problems in practice. The biggest problem that arises for the operator or the authorized person is the constant monitoring of the intended use and the integrity of protective devices. Ignorance, lack of safety thinking and noncompliance of regulation often lead to the circumvention of safety measures and protective devices – a danger for the workers, the environment and not least for the operator. Especially in explosive hazardous areas, the highest level of safety and the constant use and verifiability of safety equipment must be provided to avoid these risks.
Safe grounding of big bags due to object detection
These problems can only be solved with state-of-the-art equipment as required by law. These offer two particular advantages over conventional ground monitoring systems:
- An object detection for detecting a big bag based on its electrical characteristics
- Self-monitoring of all safety-related device function
Object detection is already a recognized standard in the grounding of tank trucks. These devices check different electrical properties of the connected object via an intrinsically safe measuring signal in a closed measuring and grounding circuit. The values determined are then compared with the stored limit values in the context of a plausibility check and filling permission is only given if the values match. This offers the decisive advantage that the device can no longer be bypassed simply by clamping the grounding clamp elsewhere, for example to the filling platform.
A self-monitoring function of the device should also ensure that all safety-related functions are intact and the device is functioning properly. In the event of a malfunction, this should be automatically detected and signaled to the user. An internal diagnostic function and display help to identify and correct the error. In order to meet the legal requirements, maintenance work and the replacement of wearing parts (grounding clamps, cables) should be possible at best without dismantling the device. Savings in workload and the associated costs are positive side effects.
At a glance
- The operator has to ensure the safety of his employees, the plant and the environment to the best of his knowledge and belief.
- Legal rules provide a framework that should be strictly observed in order to prevent accidents and legal punishment.
- The laws require state-of-the-art safety equipment, especially to:
- Avoid incorrect operation and manipulation.
- Ensure readiness and functionality of the device.
- Grounding with object recognition in conjunction with permanent self-monitoring is state-of-the-art technology in big bag grounding and should, therefore, be taken into consideration by operators focusing both on safety and efficiency.
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