Hidden dangers

15 March 2021

Matt Booth unearths four hidden dangers in warehouses handling flammable materials.

Handling and storage operations with potentially explosive atmospheres may be aware of some of the risks posed by handling with lift trucks. However, there are hidden dangers to consider too.

Restarting operations

Safety incidents can occur during start-up because operations restarting after idle periods are more susceptible to fire, explosion, or machinery breakdown. That’s why a warehouse storing chemicals or paint in sealed containers needs a pre-start plan and safety check to minimise the risks of fire and explosion.

There are particular considerations for ATEX lift trucks. Has the operation changed? And is the equipment fit for purpose and with the correct specification? Are they due their thorough examination, safety audit (Ex-ASA) or a service?

In the case of a Zone 2 warehouse, there could be spillages and accumulation of gas/vapour if the building has not been ventilated properly. Active gas detection can detect, alert the operator and shutdown the equipment safely if necessary.  However, if a passive system is in use in Zone 2 (with no gas detection) operators could be blind to a potential hazard, drum leakage for example.

Used trucks

Pre-owned explosion proof lift trucks can be useful additions to potentially explosive operations. However, it is important to check they are safe.

Wrongly specified ATEX safety equipment or poorly maintained safety systems could cause an explosion in a warehouse with a potentially explosive atmosphere. Therefore, businesses that are looking to buy a used ATEX lift truck (or rent one on a short-term basis) it is important to establish the specific operation risk. 

For gas and vapour hazards, what is the gas group and auto-ignition temperature of the substances handled? For dust and powders, what is the cloud ignition temperature, and the dust layer ignition temperature?

Service history is also very important. Was the truck regularly maintained by a trained Pyroban engineer who used the correct parts and service regime? One incorrect part may expose a site to the risk of ignition through a spark or hot surface, for example. 

Was the truck’s safety system audited on an annual basis? This would ensure that the integrity of the safety system was checked, and any faults rectified.  

Shrink wrappers

Many firms are aware of the need for explosion protection on lift trucks to keep people safe. Yet, sometimes, they have forgotten about the dangers posed by other equipment. For example, shrink wrap machines are often used within a Zone 2 warehouse area, where an explosive atmosphere is possible, but not expected, and generally would be the result of an accidental release of gas or vapour. Just one spark from a shrink wrapper’s electrical systems, or even from friction or static, could be enough to cause ignition if an explosive atmosphere is present.

Likewise cranes, access platforms and scrubber driers used in Zone 2 warehouses need the correct levels of protection.  


It is easy for an application with potentially explosive atmospheres to become focused on risks around ignition. However, pedestrians often work in proximity to lift trucks handling flammable materials, with clear safety implications. Safety lights can play a part, minimising risks for all of those working in Zoned hazardous areas by providing a warning system around a truck. 

This is particularly effective in increasing safety where visibility is poor, such as in warehouse aisles or crossings where IBCs or drums containing flammable material are being handled. However, it is vital to ensure that solutions such as blue spot driving path warning systems or red line perimeter lights are safe for use with ATEX lift trucks and fitted by competent Ex trained engineers.

Matt Booth, sales manager UK and Ireland, Pyroban

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