Buyer beware

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When purchasing or hiring a pre-owned forklift truck for use in a potentially explosive atmosphere, it is vital to check the machine is safe to use for the intended tasks and working environment.

Recent global events have put many businesses under financial pressure, resulting in strong demand for used materials handling equipment. Pre-owned explosion-proof lift trucks are no exception and can be useful and affordable additions to potentially explosive operations. But how do you know they are safe or if they are dangerous?

Wrongly specified ATEX safety equipment or poorly maintained safety systems could cause an explosion in a potentially explosive atmosphere. Therefore, businesses that are looking to buy a used ATEX lift truck (or to rent one on a short-term basis), should follow these simple guidelines in order to keep their chemical factory, waste treatment plant, distillery, food processing operation, or any other application with ATEX zones, safe.

  1. Establish the operation risk

Is the area where the trucks will be used Zone 1, 2, 21 or 22 under ATEX 1999/92/EC or DSEAR in the UK? 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?

Pre-owned explosion-proof lift trucks can be useful and affordable additions to explosive operations. Photograph: iStock / BraunS
  1. Assess the application

What will the truck be doing (height, distance etc.) and in what ambient temperature? Multi-shift continuous work or intermittent use?

As part of the protection method, surface temperatures may be limited which can have an effect on the equipment’s work cycle, especially if it is working in a high ambient temperature. For example, used Pyroban lift truck equipment traded to the Middle East may struggle with the desert heat if it isn’t built for that environment.

Based on an understanding of where the equipment will work, does the safety specification match, and does the lift truck do what is required (lift height, speed etc.)?

  1. Is the truck clean?

Many ATEX lift trucks will have worked within chemical industries, or other environments where corrosive or toxic substances are handled. It is a good idea to get an understanding of what the truck used to do and to make sure it has been de-contaminated.

  1. What about service and inspection history?

The service history is really important. Was the truck regularly maintained by a trained 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.

Service history of the lift truck is important. Photograph: Pyroban

Was the truck’s safety system audited on an annual basis by a competent safety inspector?

Not to be confused with the lift truck engineer conducting a thorough examination, this would ensure that the integrity of the safety system was checked, and any faults rectified. For example, has impact damage, wear and tear, or corrosion been left untreated for years?

  1. Safety audit before the sale completes

Insist that a safety audit is conducted, and any problems are rectified before the sale is completed. Competent and experienced auditors will have the knowledge and experience to issue a certificate in support of ongoing ATEX compliance. Used ATEX lift trucks do not always look their best but that doesn’t mean they are unsafe for a hazardous area.

Similarly, a truck might seem to be ‘working fine’, but that may not be the case. Pyroban’s Ex-ASA is a thorough audit where all safety-critical components of Pyroban’s explosion protection system (if fitted to a lift truck) are inspected and recorded. This includes Ex d enclosures, cables and glands, shutdown devices, conductivity, and fork cladding. Even experienced lift truck engineers may not fully understand the complexities of a Pyroban forklift conversion if one has been carried out, so it has to be conducted by a specially trained engineer.

If a used truck is given the ‘all clear’ in a Pyroban safety audit, and the truck’s specification matches the requirements of the site, then it can be an economical way to ensure the safety of the truck itself.

It’s as important to keep people safe in potentially explosive atmospheres now as it was a year ago. In the UK, guidance from the British Industrial Truck Association, Fork Lift Truck Association and the Health and Safety Executive has stated that despite the current circumstances disrupting ‘normal’ operations, “scheduled maintenance, repairs and statutory inspections must be considered essential ongoing activities”.

So, to ensure that trucks are properly protected when working in Zone 1, 2, 21 or 22, safety audits are still considered essential requirements and must not be delayed. 

Keeping your existing fleet?

If you’ve chosen to roll on your existing ATEX forklift contract rather than invest in new or used lift trucks, you must still check when a safety audit was last conducted and should conduct an audit if it’s due. Failure to do so could have big implications for both safety and compliance.

Likewise, if you choose to bring short-term hire equipment onto your sites, you must check when a safety audit was last conducted. You shouldn’t hire equipment unless you are certain it is safe and there is evidence that it has been audited and serviced accordingly by a trained engineer.

For more information see: www.pyroban.com

Darren Boiling is materials handling sales manager at Pyroban



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