This article is Part 3 of a 3-part blog series that will provide an overview of safe practices for the use of material handling equipment in hazardous environments. Today, we’ll discuss space constraint challenges and solutions.
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I discussed issues with compliance to NEC and IEC standards, the need for mechanical spark resistance and the importance of corrosion protection for safety in hazardous environments. In this blog, the final installment of the series, we’ll outline the challenges of working in areas with space constraints and how these challenges are magnified in hazardous areas. We will also identify solutions to these potential problems.
Classified hazardous areas frequently exist within confined spaces, especially in the mining and oil & gas industries. In mining, tunnels often have low overhead clearance in areas where coal or other flammable dust may be present. In the oil and gas industry, designers of offshore facilities typically look to minimize the overall size of the structure, which can lead to low headroom between deck levels and tight clearances for monorails and crane runways.
In all of these situations, there is a need for overhead lifting equipment that is compact in design, including low headroom and short side clearances, as well as a short “end approach” to maximize the deck coverage area served by the monorail hoist or crane.
This need for compact hoists, trolleys and cranes is often complicated by the possibility that flammable gases or dust may be present in the areas where the equipment is used. Therefore, explosion-proof and spark-resistant features may be needed, each posing their own challenges given the space constraints. For example, explosion-proof electric motors and control enclosures are typically larger and heavier than those for non-hazardous areas. Spark-resistant bronze load blocks and hooks tend to be larger than carbon or alloy steel hooks and blocks with the same safe working load. Also, the use of spark-resistant stainless steel load chain or wire rope often requires the equipment capacity to be de-rated due to lower tensile strength of stainless versus alloy steel. This de-rating can sometimes result in larger, heavier and more costly hoists and cranes.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when specifying or purchasing lifting equipment for hazardous locations with space limitations. When dimensional constraints within facilities and working environments compete with the need to comply with hazardous area requirements, the safety of personnel, equipment and facilities themselves must always take precedence in our decision making.
Fortunately, there are a variety of equipment options available, featuring spark- and corrosion-resistant materials and explosion-proof components, that can be used in confined areas. Low-headroom hoists are offered in both wire rope and chain varieties, including manual, electric and pneumatic models.
Wire rope hoists can typically provide higher capacities and faster lifting speeds, while chain hoists can offer smaller overall dimensional envelopes to optimize end approach and clearance. Solid bronze and stainless steel components can provide lasting protection against sparking and corrosion, but, in some applications, copper or nickel plating can be substituted to provide lower headroom dimensions and reduce the need for de-rating of safe working loads.
Columbus McKinnon provides solutions for all of these challenges. The Chester brand is best known for its ultra-low headroom models. The industry-leading, low-profile designs and rugged durability of Chester hoists make them ideal for harsh marine environments and confined spaces between decks on ships and offshore oil facilities. Yale Cable King wire rope hoists and Yale crane component products also provide a broad range of capacities and configurations and can be engineered with explosion-proof and spark-resistant features.
Regardless of your industry or where you do business, Columbus McKinnon has the hoists, cranes and application expertise to keep your people, materials and equipment safe in classified hazardous and corrosive environments.