Flameproof forklifts for hazardous areas

FLAMEPROOFING of electrically powered equipment is mandatory for operation within hazardous areas where a risk of explosion or fire ignition exists due to the presence of dangerous gases in the air.

FLAMEPROOFING of electrically powered equipment is mandatory for operation within hazardous areas where a risk of explosion or fire ignition exists due to the presence of dangerous gases in the air.

In Australia, these areas are defined in standards AS60079.10 and AS61241.10.

Hazardous sites are evaluated according to the type and volume of hazardous materials, the area in which the materials are handled, and the ventilation conditions.

Nichiyu, Japan’s largest dedicated manufacturer of battery-electric forklifts, is said to be one of the few forklift suppliers that build flameproof forklifts that are fully certified to Australian Standards for use in the most hazardous areas where powered materials handling equipment can be used.

These areas are classified as Class 1, Zone 1* and accordingly, the Japanese company’s flameproof forklifts meet the requirements of all insurance underwriters for hazardous area operation.

Key areas of the company’s battery-electric forklifts that are modified to make them flameproof include the electric motors, battery tray, battery and connectors, electrical switch box, main traction control panel, illuminated operator display panels, interlocked safety circuits, accessories such as flashing lights, reversing beepers etc, copper-plated forklift tines and conductive tyres and static discharge strips.

All electronic equipment, such as the control system and motors, is installed in completely airtight enclosures designed to withstand the force of an explosion.

Where existing equipment requires flameproofing, the company also modifies forklifts locally, working in conjunction with one of Australia’s leading suppliers of flameproofing services, Sydney-based Chess Flameproofing, a division of Chess Engineering.

According to Chess Flameproofing’s consultant Mike Robbins, materials handling equipment such as forklift trucks, tow tractors, sweepers, scissor lifts and boom lifts for use in hazardous areas need to be modified to remove or reduce the risk of the equipment becoming a source of ignition.

“These sources of ignition include flames and sparks from exhaust systems, arcs and sparks from electrical equipment, hot surfaces and static build up,” Robbins explained.

“Both diesel and battery-electric powered forklifts can be flameproofed, however spark ignition engines such as those powered by LPG and petrol are prohibited in hazardous areas.”

Battery-electric vehicles can be modified to make them suitable for use in Zone 1, 2, 21 or 22 areas.

“In line with the global trend to risk assessment, Chess Flameproofing carries out extensive risk assessments on each industrial vehicle we convert or modify,” Robbins said.

“This verifies that the converted or modified equipment is in compliance with the nominated flameproofing specification, and that the vehicle and associated equipment is safe for use in the nominated hazardous areas.

“This is supported with design verification and, where appropriate, third-party testing by independent, accredited testing authorities. A series of in production inspections, pressure and electrical testing is followed by final inspection of the equipment, which is then put through simulated operating condition tests and subjected to temperature rise tests in accordance with AS2359.12.

“A certificate of compliance to the nominated flameproofing specification is issued with each flameproofing installation,” he added.

“For extreme applications where a certificate of compliance is not satisfactory, full certification to Australian Standards from independent, accredited testing/certifying authorities is available at a considerable premium.”

*Class O is the highest classification for hazardous areas and no powered materials handling equipment may be used in such environments.

Nichiyu Forklifts Australia 02 9672 7430.