Effective Protection or Cost Driven Safety?


Courtesy of EBRO Armaturen Gebr. Bröer GmbH

Operators of a system that has been running safely for many years are sometimes ruluctant to change that system. However, reagrding safety and, more importantly, upgrading of their safety systems, they should not be complacent. Especially with regard to explosion protection, it is necessary that the protective measures be examined regularly and be adapted to the latest state of technology. This does not always result in higher costs. On the contrary, this frequently involves a process improvement at minimal costs.

One encounters plant operators throughout the world who believe the powder production system they have been operating successfully for many years is sufficiently safe, even without additional measures. After all, they can state that the operation has been running for many years without any notable failures or risk events. Reference is frequently made to „much more dangerous“ operating conditions in the liquid or gas processing chemical industry. This is the reason the Europeans, with their tendency for firmly-stated regulation, are sometimes considered to be over-zealous. But protection of life should never be considered as an escessive cost. Domestic plant designers are also under considerable cost pressure when they must quote outside their home market, into other jurisdictions which have considerably lower safety standards. Explosion protection is expensive. Or is it?

The preamble to the ATEX directive however, clearly points out our joint responsibility:

The Member States have the task of ensuring safety and of protecting the health of persons and domestic animals, if necessary, and the safety of goods in their sovereign territory. [1] Naturally, this obligation for plant designers and internationally active producers can and must not be limited just to the European area. The directive was also implemented with extreme hesitation initially in many companies, even in Europe. The need for explanations frequently appeared to be unreasonably high, as did the administrative costs. Proven procedural methods had to be scrutinized and clearly documented. It became obvious that many of the old methods and operating procedures were no longer appropriate, in view of the ATEX guideline and developments by equipment manufacturers. Therefore, these needed to be revised. In many discussions, the responsible employees in a production plant pointed out that production had been safe so far and that there had not been any relevant incidents. These comments had to be respected, but no plant, in whatever industry or process, can remain static in the face of changing standards and rapidly improving product development.

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