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The pharmaceutical industries can create similar explosive atmosphere hazards to those encountered in the wider industrial fields of chemicals and food and beverages. As with these comparable industries, there are many pharmaceutical industry workplaces where employees will require the knowledge to control and mitigate such risks, in order to keep their facilities safe for themselves and others.

Explosive risk of powders

Flammable liquids and vapours have long been associated with explosion risk in the pharmaceutical industry, but dust and powders can be equally challenging. While most employees will be aware of the risks of combustible dusts, such as grain and coal, few are likely to fully appreciate the very broad range of combustible products that can give rise to the risk of explosion.

The process of combustion is essentially one of exothermic oxidation and most materials are capable of some level of oxidation from their surface over a period of time. Powders offer a greater surface area for oxidation, and the more finely ground a powder is, the more rapidly this reaction will occur. As the reaction is exothermic, the combustion of an airborne powder in sufficient concentration can give rise to a flame front and pressure wave capable of disturbing and igniting further powder in the area as an explosion propagates. The dust created from the handling and processing of powders may appear benign, but can, if uncontrolled, pose a serious explosive risk if not managed safely and with appropriate levels of housekeeping.

CompEx qualifications help to ensure that employees are equipped with the knowledge and competence necessary to ensure the safety of staff and facilities exposed to such explosive risks.

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