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Explosion proof conversions should still seek approval from manufacturers, advises Pyroban

15 February 2016

Leading safety business Pyroban has advised that the explosion proof modification of a forklift truck should have the written approval of the original truck manufacturer in order to comply with international standards and best practice.

"The current edition of ISO 3691-1:2011, transposed into European standards in 2012, clearly states that with regards to safety, unauthorised truck modification is not permitted and that no alterations should be made without the prior written approval of the original truck manufacturer," confirms Steve Noakes from Pyroban, the leading conversion company providing explosion proof solutions.

"There is a planned update to the EN version of the standard which appears to "soften" this requirement due to a challenge regarding anti-competitiveness. However, the underlying principle to control the process of modifying fork trucks for special applications should still be taken seriously.

This is particularly important when trucks are modified to meet the ATEX Directive, as the overall of the truck could be affected by the significant wiring changes, additional weight and changes to the control systems required in the conversion. It means that whilst a forklift may comply with ATEX or other Ex standards, it may not comply with this international standard, unless there is written consent from the original truck manufacturer. There may be a significant safety impact introduced by the modification which the Ex conversion company had not considered"

Pyroban has focused significant resource on gaining approval from all leading manufacturers of materials handling equipment to carry out explosion proof modifications. The company has agreements in place with OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for the conversion work undertaken and has many standardised explosion proof forklift designs already approved with a number of leading brands based on their latest technologies.

"We have processes in place to ensure conformity and are regularly audited in all our factories by truck manufacturers," says Steve. "The risks are too great to do it any other way. I believe the safety risks associated with operating equipment in potentially explosive atmosphere demands tight control over how fork trucks are modified; the requirement to obtain written OEM approval is a key element to this control."

Explosion proof conversions typically involve re-engineering the truck so that there are no sources of ignition from, for example, arcing and sparking components, hot surfaces or even static from the seat. A multitude of potential ignition sources found on a standard forklift could cause an explosion in a hazardous area.

"No forklift manufacturer should agree to a complex modification without a complete understanding of how the alteration will be made, the processes that will be followed to ensure the final conversion meets the OEM expectations, and also the level of support available after the converted truck is in service."

For more than four decades Pyroban has developed close links with all major forklift brands. It also has extensive links with certification authorities including SIRA, INTERTEK, ElectroSuisse, INERIS and TUV in Europe; FM, CSA, in America; and PCEC, CQST and NEPSI in China, which supports the conversion of almost every type of mobile equipment to ensure full compliance with relevant local safety regulations such as ATEX in Europe or GB19854-2005 in China.

Pyroban typically converts counterbalance forklifts, VNA, order pickers, reach trucks and other warehouse equipment, but access platforms, cranes, military and mining equipment are increasingly common.

"We believe that large organisations are using explosion proof equipment that has been converted without OEM agreements in place, exposing them to increased risk. We have seen cases in Germany, the Netherlands, France, the UK and other parts of Europe where trucks from leading suppliers are potentially exposing the supply chain to safety and legal issues.

"When buying a new Ex truck, we advise checking with your truck supplier to ensure that there is written consent for the Ex converter," adds Steve. "This will prevent any problems with product and public liability, warranty and technical support. It will also ensure the modification is carried out properly and will not put the staff, supply chain and brand at risk."

Pyroban is a safety business trusted to provide a range of safety critical solutions to some of the most well-known global consumer and industrial brands. The company operates through manufacturing facilities in the UK, the Netherlands and China.