About 280 industrial incidents involving static electricity are reported to fire departments each year, according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA).
When the humidity is low, and when a spill causes sufficient quantities of flammable vapors to be present, controlling static electricity becomes a vital safety concern. As part of the safety plan at your facility, there are a lot of things you can do to minimize static hazards, such as bonding and grounding components, wearing specialized clothing, increasing the humidity or ventilation in an area, and ensuring that you have absorbents that don’t contribute to the hazard.
Remember the conductors vs. insulators lesson? Some of the materials used to make absorbents have insulating properties, which means that they can build up a static charge. When absorbents will be used in potentially hazardous situations involving flammable liquid vapors, such as in confined spaces or refueling operations, you should take care to select absorbents that will not create new hazards or increase the risk of existing hazards.
Here’s an example. Oil-selective absorbent mats and booms are commonly used to contain and absorb fuels and other flammable liquid spills. Most oil-selective absorbents are made from polypropylene, which is a form of plastic. Plastic is an insulating material, and it has an inherent static charge. When the mats or booms are packaged in untreated plastic bags, the bags and absorbents rub together and separate during shipment and handling — generating an even greater static charge on the absorbent. It’s a recipe for disaster.
OSHA requires facilities to take precautions to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors, and identifies static as a source of ignition [29 CFR 1910.106(h)(7)(i)(a)]. It’s a wise move to choose absorbents that have been treated to dissipate static charges and help prevent them from becoming an uncontrolled ignition source. That’s a risk you don’t want to take.
As usual, New Pig has you covered. PIG Stat-Mat Absorbents and PIG Oil-Only Booms are topically treated to dissipate static and consistently pass NFPA 99 static decay test parameters. Use these as part of your standard operation procedure, and the only spark you’ll have to worry about is the one you get when you pet your cat.
You tell us: Do you need static dissipative mats in any of your applications? Let us know in the comments section below!