We are amazed at some of the workplaces we visit in order to carry out DSEAR assessments; many clearly fail to understand the problems that creating a flammable atmosphere can bring. They naively rely on having a ventilation system in place and think that is the sole answer to controlling the risks.
The problem is that the employees rarely seem to have any clear knowledge of the substances they are working with and how dangerous flammable vapours and dusts can be. This was clearly seen on a recent assessment where significant quantities of highly flammable paints and thinners were stored around an extraction booth. These were found not to be properly sealed and much was stored in positions that would make it very difficult for the extraction to safely keep the vapours under control.
The smell of vapour was very obvious to us and also to the site health & safety advisor; however not so to the employees which is often the case. The more we looked at the situation the more concerns were raised as a number of unprotected sources of ignition were close by. This included electrical sockets, lighting and even an oven; clearly a recipe for a potential disaster. To their credit the management responded quickly and took positive action to improve the situation.
We wish this was just an isolated instance; however it’s not and not having correctly rated electrics for what should be a zoned DSEAR area is all too common. Sometimes it might be simple things such as radios, lighting and heating in the danger zone. Ignoring the risks could end up with a fire or explosion and therefore should be understood by both management and employees. Having a proper DSEAR assessment is a legal requirement and when completed should provide the right direction to the business to keep its employees safe and healthy.
It’s not worth taking the risk; we urge businesses to look carefully and take positive action as the business mentioned above did.