In this article Mike Brodie, Chemstore UK MD, outlines some of the risks associated with working with static and offers some best practice guidance.
What is static?
Static electricity is, simply put, electricity that is stuck in a system with nowhere to go. Within a typical electrical circuit, the charge is contained within a closed loop and returns to the source after carrying out a specific task, powering your kettle or lighting your office for example.
Static is different in that it can accumulate, often unnoticed, on plant, containers or even personnel. Due to lack of awareness or complacency in the workplace this build-up of energy can result in devastating, yet entirely avoidable accidents.
The accumulation of electrostatic charge is caused by barriers between the static charge and its path to ‘true earth’. For example, electrostatic charge on steel drums can be prevented from being dissipated by the presence of protective coatings, rust, debris build up and even surface layers of the stored product. Static build up on personnel can be a result of wearing the wrong footwear, or the use of insulating gloves when handling product.
Electrostatic sparking is caused by the rapid ionisation of the atmosphere between two objects at different electrical potential. When this voltage reaches a critical level, ionisation occurs in the form of a spark.
If the atmosphere across the spark is between its upper and lower flammable limits, ignition of the atmosphere will occur, resulting in fire or explosion.
The dangers of static
Possibly the most famous example of a disastrous electrostatic discharge is the Hindenburg ‘Airship’ explosion. According to a team of experts recently assigned to conclude what caused the vessel to explode on 6th May, 1937, determined the most likely cause was a build-up of electrostatic energy transferred to the airship by passing through highly charged thunderstorm clouds. The problem came about during landing, as the ground crew reached for the tie down ropes, a path was created for the charge to spark to ground as contact with the earth was made. This, in turn, ignited the Hydrogen gas used to fill the ship, resulting in the explosion that killed 36 passengers that day.
Manoa Laboratory 2016
A more recent example of disastrous electrostatic discharge includes an explosion in 2016 within the Manoa Laboratory at the University of Hawaii. Investigators noted that: –
“…serious deficiencies in the institution’s approach to laboratory safety contributed to a lapse in proper risk assessment and lack of a culture of safety that ultimately led to the accident”.
A research fellow, visiting the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute biofuels research laboratory, was transferring a mix of flammable gases into a low pressure tank when the explosion occurred. The explosion seriously injured the lab technician, causing her to lose her arm. The University suffered an estimated $1,000,000 in damage to property and faces up to $115,500 in fines.
Initial investigations put the blame on an incorrectly specified pressure gauge that was not suitable for use with flammable gases, however further studies into the event placed the blame on static discharge within the tank.
It appears the explosion could have been avoided however by carrying out a more detailed risk assessment of the process. In fact, although the experiment had been carried out 10 or 11 times previously it was noted that the investigators discovered a number of ‘near misses’ that should have caused the process to be shut down and investigated further.
For example, a ‘cracking’ sound was reported during a similar experiment on another tank but the technician was advised to simply not use that equipment again. Equally of concern is that the technician had also reported receiving static shocks when touching the pressure vessel but was told not to worry about it.
Where is static likely to occur in the workplace?
It is always essential to consider static accumulation within workplace processes, but more so when these processes involve the creation of potentially explosive atmospheres. Such activities do not have to involve large quantities of flammables liquids or dusts. A few litres of flammable liquid, under the right circumstances can create the perfect conditions for an explosion throughout a workshop or laboratory. Common activities often include the collection of waste into larger drums/IBC’s for bulk disposal, or decanting of good product from larger drums into smaller containers for transfer into the workshop or laboratory.
During both processes a release of flammable vapour is often unavoidable. A static discharge at this time can easily result in a devastating explosion or fire.
Responsibility for these activities most likely rests with the operators, however due to the absence of a visible or tangible hazard, a lack of understanding or awareness can lead to complacency or honest mistakes and an electrostatic ignition.
As an example, a calculation can be made to show the energy of an electrostatic charge typically found on a metal drum containing liquid.
Example spark energy (joules) of a steel drum containing liquid = approx. 8.0 mJ
|Liquid / Gas
|Minimum Ignition Energy
It is clear to see that there is easily enough energy in commonly found activities to ignite a flammable atmosphere (within the explosive limits) of regularly used chemicals.
There are many articles and best practice guides available in the market. In the UK, the DSEAR – Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations requires that a thorough risk assessment is carried out by a competent person.
“…Where a dangerous substance is or is liable to be present at the workplace, the employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to his employees which arise from that substance. … [including] … the likelihood that ignition sources, including electrostatic discharges, will be present and become active and effective”
How Chemstore UK can help to solve the problem
Firstly, Chemstore can supply an on site assessment of your processes and facilities. If necessary, we can carry out a full DSEAR Risk Assessment for you to address any concerns you have regarding your process and to help put a plan in place for safe practices going forward.
This can then be re-enforced with operator and staff training and awareness courses to improve knowledge of the risks and associated hazards.
We can also offer a range of grounding equipment, depending on the application, to ensure operators have the right equipment to carry out the tasks on site.
Preferably, such equipment should not only monitor the presence of a connection to true earth (thus ensuring and static can safely drain away) but should also alert the operator if this state changes and the system becomes potentially dangerous.
The operator can then shut down the process until the issue can be rectified.
Static grounding requirements: What precautions should be taken when transferring flammable liquids from a metal container to a metal receiver?
When transferring liquids to/from 200L metal drums, for example – we would typically recommend using ‘pressure clamps’ capable of penetrating any surface barriers like rust, protective coatings usually present in such scenarios.
These clamps must be capable of achieving the (industrially accepted) contact resistance of 10 Ohms or less. Not only should they achieve this level of conductivity, but they should also be able to notify the operator that a good connection is ‘made’, or more importantly ‘not made’.
Please enquire here for more information on this range of active products
Although ‘active’ systems clearly offer a preferred level of risk mitigation, sites may (after careful risk assessment) elect to implement a more passive system that does not have ground status monitoring or feedback capability. In this case it is essential to understand the limitations of such a system, to ensure that a good connection has indeed been made and continues to be made during the process. The use of certified and approved Factory Mutual or ATEX equipment is essential to achieve this – which Chemstore can supply on request.
Walk In Fire Rated Stores Stores
The FireVault storage module provides the highest level of safety instantly for the secure storage of all flammable materials. All areas of industry currently employ flammables in their processes from petroleum products to industrial chemicals.
Manufactured to the highest standards utilising only those fireproofing materials, which have been tested to BS 476, part 22, FireVault Stores comply with all relevant Health & Safety Regulations, Insurance requirements and environmental standards such as IS310, ISO 14001, EMAS and IPC licensing.
Standard features include, full width spillage collection sumps, up to 5 hour fire rated composite wall panels, insulated self-closing doors, intumescent ventilation panels, fixed shelving, anti-static grounding connections, fully welded, leak tested bunds, galvanized grid mesh floors. A range of optional extras are also available for the Firevault units including ex-rated electrical fittings.
All Firevault units are delivered to site fully assembled and ready for immediate use. No special site works are required and at any future time, they can easily be relocated by forklift truck or crane, thereby offering excellent flexibility.
The most common Firevaults are the Walk In Stores used for small container storage (25L cans, Winchesters etc) and feature:
Mat Mitchell spoke to us after receiving a bespoke Firevault – fire rated drum & ibc store on site in the UK .
“After consulting with various suppliers, Chemstore was the only company who could provide us with the required solution” Mat Mitchell Technology Supplies Ltd. –
Fire Rated Stores for: Drums, IBC’s & pallets of flammable materials.
FireVault units are fully modular and can be easily relocated by forkturck or Hi-AB Crane
All Firevault units are delivered to site fully assembled and ready for immediate use with no site work required.
Firevault Multi Pallet Stores feature:
See table below for our range of sizes below
With over 24 years experience in the design manufacture and implementation of safety storage systems for hazardous materials, We know from speaking to our clients that the most prevalent risk has always been in the storage of flammables. What also must be considered is the protection of valuable equipment. The Firevault can employed as a Fire rated critical equipment enclosure. Whether it be the HSE, EPA or even company insurers carrying out assessments on your site it will always be the risk of fire that is given the highest priority. The Firevault enables you to obtain the highest level of safety and protection when storing flammable materials or protecting your most valuable assets on on site.
Here at Chemstore, we are continually researching ways to develop our presence in the UK and broaden our scope in industrial sectors throughout the country. This week Chemstore has joined many other successful companies in becoming a member of NOF Energy.
NOF Energy is a highly proactive business development organisation working on behalf of companies within the oil & gas, offshore renewables and power sectors.
With a renewed focus on the Oil & Gas, Renewables and power sectors the Chemstore team is excited to work with NOF and we are looking forward to partaking in the many valuable events managed by the organisation.
Take a look at some of the work NOF does for UK business below:
Introducing Chemstore Connect
A key strength of Chemstore throughout its history has been anticipating and responding to the needs of the marketplace. By actively pursuing an innovative product strategy we are positioned to deliver real benefits to our customers now and into the future.
Testament to Chemstore’s ongoing product development and improvement initiatives is its growing blue-chip client base in locations across the globe spanning a wide array of sectors and applications. Recently of most note would be the development of our groundbreaking software platform Chemstore Connect. Over the last 18 months, we have developed a software that enables you with the essential tools for compliance on your site. By trialing the platform with key clients from heavy industry, food processing, education and the oil & gas sectors we are now able to introduce a product that creates unquestioned value for any organisation who handles hazardous materials on site. Connect is the critical final segment in our offering to you that guarantees a solution to manage and eliminate the risks with hazardous materials on your site.
Find out more by downloading our Connect Brochure
CMS Chemstore Engineering Ltd. is a family led SME headquartered in Limerick, Ireland and our UK Engineering office based in Putney, London. The company was founded in February 1993 and we have commenced our 25th successful year in business.
Chemstore as an organisation enable our clients to create a safer workplace for their employees. We provide an all-encompassing range of tried and tested products & services designed to eliminate the risks with hazardous material storage and handling on site. All our manufacturing of highly certified modules for the storage of various classes of hazardous materials & critical equipment is undertaken in Ireland and our quality standards are what make Chemstore the market leading provider of safety solutions. We’ve achieved that distinction through best practice, faultless service, and trusted products.
Chemstore core values & goals
We firmly believe that every employee should feel safe in the workplace.
Every person who goes to work each day expects to complete their shift without succumbing to harm. At Chemstore we know in order for this to be possible in industrial environments, every employee should know exactly what hazards exist in their workplace and the knowledge to best manage these risks.
Our ultimate goal as an organisation is to eliminate the risks when storing and handling hazardous materials. Chemstore as a company wants all our valued clients to feel that you have created a safer workplace for your employees and instil a pride in your company that it is a safe place to work.
Chemstore cares more
We’ve been designing, manufacturing and installing safe storage solutions for over 25 years and we know that our products are only half of the story. We take pride in building longstanding relationships and on providing the best possible advice, based on a thorough understanding of our customers’ business needs. With us, you’re in safe hands.
For us, safety can only be achieved through quality. It’s a standard that everyone at Chemstore strives for, and it runs through everything we do. So we always aim to provide high-quality products, on time, with excellent service and at the lowest cost. And to make sure that we’re on the right track, we’re committed to listening to our customers and to act on their feedback.
We are certified to the internationally-recognised ISO 9001 quality management standard and we’re constantly striving to improve our service whenever we can. Our employees are encouraged to suggest better, safer ways of working, and we believe in maintaining transparent business processes.
It’s a way of working that takes commitment, investment and long-term vision, but the results we deliver and the reassurance that we provide is well worth the effort.
The Chemstore team enjoyed a very productive seminar over two days in the Radisson Hotel, Limerick, Ireland where the targets reached in 2016 were celebrated and motivations switched to the upcoming 12 months with team targets set and agreed with the goal of making 2017 an even greater success for our growing company.
Following two days of hard work, presentations, and brainstorming sessions it was off to the UL Activity Centre in Kilaloe, Co. Clare, Ireland for a very eventful and fun team building day on the lake with fantastic weather :
See images below ! 🙂
Chemstore is pleased to announce the appointment of AllMaritim as its Preferred Partner for the Norwegian market.
Both companies will work together to deliver Chemstore’s industry leading hazardous materials storage systems to clients across a variety of industry sectors in Norway where AllMaritim has a proven reputation and track record.
Speaking at the appointment Neil O Carroll, Chemstore CEO commented; “We are delighted with this announcement. The oil and gas sector is one where there exists a definite value proposition for our products and AllMaritim is a recognised key supplier to this industry in Norway with an established client base. I also believe that AllMaritim provides a close cultural fit to Chemstore and look forward to working together to build our business in that region.”
Already a leading supplier in the UK and Ireland this appointment represents another significant development in Chemstore expanding its reach into mainland Europe. Increasingly stringent environmental and safety regulations continue to drive the need for organisations to improve how hazardous materials are stored and managed. Chemstore’s Firevault range of products provide clients with a state of the art suite of solutions to address these risks across a wide variety of applications.
Pictured at the signing of the Distribution Agreement are Neil O’ Carroll, Chemstore CEO and Ann-Heidi Leine, Sales Manager AllMaritim.
Commenting on their appointment, AllMaritim Managing Director Trond Dale said; “We believe that Chemstore’s products will add substantially to AllMaritim’s existing proposition to customers. We are particularly strong in the oil and gas sector where our spill response and recovery solutions are well established. We are excited about the opportunities in this and other sectors where we are active such as construction, mining and also pharmaceuticals.
Chemstore made history in 2015 with the launch of its DNV 2.7-2 certified Firevault product specifically for demanding offshore oil and gas applications. It became the first Irish supplier of HazMat storage systems to receive ISO 9001 accreditation in 2012. The company has expanded its manufacturing capacity on two occasions and now operates from a 15,000m2 facility in Limerick, Ireland.
2017 promises to be another exciting year in the company’s growth and development with additional significant product launches planned, and further expansion of its global footprint into overseas markets.
Headquartered in Ireland Chemstore is a recognised leader in the manufacture of storage systems for hazardous materials and mission critical equipment. Over its 23-year history the company has grown to establish leadership positions in Ireland and the UK with a blue-chip client base across a wide variety of sectors including oil & gas, heavy industry, pharmaceutical, telecommunications and petrochemical. The company operates a manufacturing facility and sales operation in Ireland, with UK sales managed from its subsidiary in London.
AllMaritim AS is a leading supplier to the international oil spill response industry and has been active in this sector since 1988. Today the company is recognized in more than 30 countries as providing industry leading oil spill response and recovery solutions to customers. AllMaritim AS is supported by two main manufacturers, NOFI Tromsø AS and Noren Bergen AS who supply a complete range of complementary products comprising oil containment booms and oil recovery systems, respectively. AllMaritim is a proud supplier of products that have made a difference over 25 years.
Contact Details for Press & PR Enquiries:
Chemstore Engineering Ltd: AllMaritim AS:
Clondrinagh Industrial Estate Hillerenveien 82
Ennis Rd. 5174 Mathopen
Shane O Carroll Maiken Myklebust
Marketing Director Sales and Marketing Coordinator
T: +353 061 327 792 T: +47 5533 6160
M: + 353 87 261 9996 M: +47 95 22 94 93
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