FormPak, Inc. is the industry leader in custom bulk bag handling systems.
On October 2, 2015 they co-hosted a community event with their “neighbor company” Permalok, Corp in celebration of Manufacturing Day.
The National Manufacturing Day celebration was shared with employees, friends, suppliers, media and their local community members. FormPak showcased some positive news on growth and thriving small manufacturing businesses in Ferguson, MO and in their local community!
As a supplier who celebrated MFG Day virtually, AMG Bolting Solutions has set-out to highlight several stand-out companies who have a great educational message to share with our audience.
This article below was provided by FormPak, and then AMG Bolting Solutions added some commentary and tied loose ends up to keep thing relevant for you — our awesome blog reader(s).
The original unaltered whitepaper written exclusively by Mr. Mike Owens can be found here >>>
Super Sack Handling Equipment Safety
Bulk bags, FIBC’s (Flexible Intermediate Containers), Super Sacks®, Big Bags, Jumbo Totes, Flexi Totes, and the list goes on.
Whatever name you choose to give them, the use of FIBC bags is on a meteoric rise.
The trend started in 2013, when well over 34 million bags were imported and used in the United States, and the trend continues today.
This month alone 1,611 foreign exports of FIBC bags have been recorded by Zauba, an import and export data site from India.
As you can see, within the first six days of October 2015 over 100,000 FIBC bag units have been recorded as headed to the US.
Main cause of growth for larger FIBC bags
Much of this increase has been simulated by economic demand (higher packaging material costs), however, the ergonomic and environmental advantages of bulk FIBC bags over small FIBC bags (primarily 50# and 25kg), small boxes, crates and drums has had a significant impact as well.
Typically smaller packages can cause severe back and joint injuries due to the repetitive motion of lifting. In addition, they tend to limit the type and age of personnel that can perform the duties of lifting and moving them.
From an environmental standpoint, less packaging material waste is created by using larger FIBC bags versus the other methods of packaging listed earlier, thus leaving behind a smaller carbon footprint.
From a operational standpoint, bulk bags often lead to lower disposal cost.
Safety challenges presented by FIBC Bags
While bulk bags tend to offer ergonomic and environmental advantages, the proliferation in bulk bag use has created a new class of safety issues.
To make matters worst, due to the significant weights (in some cases over 2 tons) the results of these incidents can be catastrophic.
Fortunately, by using common sense, following safety procedures, selecting the right types of bulk packaging equipment, and ensuring all units are secure most incidents are preventable.
A history of bulk bag handling safety issues
Historically bulk and FIBC bags were used in just a few industries (typically agriculture and mining), and even then in small quantities.
Much of the early equipment used to handle these large bags was either poorly designed, or not suited to the task.
However, due to infrequent use and small numbers, injuries were rare and seldom addressed.
Today, bulk bag handling equipment has been pressed into greater service and manufacturing operators have been forced to handle more bags with sub-par systems.
Injury rates began to climb.
Injuries caused by use (or misuse) of the bags fall into (4) primary categories:
Overcoming safety challenges in bulk bag handling
The goal of this post is tri-fold, to;
- Make you clearly aware of the most common issues operators face when handling bulk bags.
- Equip Safety / Plant / Operation Managers, Maintenance Supervisors and HR Leaders with knowledge needed to assess potential danger, so they can pass it down to their team members.
- Prepare you to remedy and help your team to minimize the risks associated with handling FIBC and other large bags.
The common issues associated with filling industrial bulk bags
Probably the category with the lowest risk and fewest injuries is filling bulk bags, however, there are some notable issues and easy to fix remedies.
- Unstable bag lifts and poorly fastened equipment
One of the most common injuries is the lack of suitable bag support as the bag fills up, leaving the holding unit and/or the bulk bag susceptible to leaning, spilling, or toppling.
In the best case, issues related to lack of structural support cause little to no harm.
However, in the worst cases — the ones we need to prepare for, operators or their appendages have been crushed.
Therefore, a quality support system and its proper installation is essential to ensure safety.
In an article titled “How to Anchor Pallet Racks to concrete” by Vice President of Concrete Fasteners, Mike Pistorino, it states:
It is extremely important to ensure that all of the racks are level before installing any anchors. It is also essential to ensure that every column of the rack frame will be anchored to an adequate and stable concrete floor.
A “rated” proper filling frame is always recommended to support the entire weight of the bag in a suspended mode (not typically necessary for proper filling, but eliminates any doubt to its suitability).
We recommend one of the following bulk bag unloading systems to provide suitable bag support:
- Hoist and Trolley Bulk Bag Unloaders
- Fork Truck Loaded Big Bag Unloaders
- Half Frame Super Sack Unloaders
- Loss In Weight Bulk Unloading Systems
- Bulk Bag Unloader Retro-fit Kit
Another related set of injuries can occur when supporting the bag from something non-permanent (most notably a fork-lift).
While the forklift may have suitable capacity for supporting the bag, it requires the operator to work with it in close proximity.
Unfortunately, this method can lead to several mishaps — even if the operator is extremely careful.
One example is that the operator could be run over or hit by the lift / fork mechanism if the hydraulic fluid within the equipment or forklift is low. If not injured, the bulk bag handler could get caught between the lift and other equipment.
Another example, is where another operator errantly lowers the bulk bag placing the other operator’s appendages/ life in danger.
Other common filling injuries are related to support and sealing of the bag fill spout.
Operators should not be required to hold the spout in awkward positions [see photo titled: “Filling Systems – The Bad“], use inferior sealing devices (bungee cords for example), or be exposed to dust as the bag is filled, but not properly ventilated.
Of course, we have a favorable bias toward FormPak filling systems, however, any reputable manufacturer’s basic filling frames will provide a safe and efficient system.
Naturally, machinery and equipment offering automation can offer significant ergonomic advantages.
These advantages included, but are not limited to their:
- ease of attachment to lift loops systems,
- automatic loop releases,
- automatic discharge of the bag to accumulation conveyors,
- user-friendly pallet feeders, and
- automatic size allowing for quick, safe change-over.
Dangers of combustion dust explosions
One of the most feared dangers of filling a bulk bag is the potential of an electrical shock to operators, or even worst — a deadly dust combustion explosion.
This may sound crazy, but, even something as simple as corn starch can burst into flames.
Check this video to see what we mean:
For some materials a significant static charge can be created as a bulk bag is filled.
If this static reaches a high enough charge, and a spark is created, a combustible material may ignite, or the dust itself can explode.
Below is a short list of hazards of static material handling in bulk bags, however, there are many resources that cover this subject in much greater detail.
In general, these handling systems are required to completely ground the bag and the equipment (and the operator) when working with combustible materials and ground-able (conductive) bags.
Conductivity (continuity) instruments can be used to ensure the bag/equipment is safe to use, or even “lock-out” equipment if this isn’t grounded properly.
- Brush Discharges from the surfaces of Type A (standard insulating) FIBCs and liners
- Brush discharges can ignite flammable atmospheres requiring up to approximately 3 – 5mJ for ignition
- Propagating Brush discharges can ignite flammable vapor, gas, and dust cloud atmospheres
- Spark Discharges from conductive parts of Type C FIBCs (ground-able bags), if left ungrounded, and from conductive threads in corona type FIBCs
- Spark discharges from conductive parts of Type C FIBCs can ignite flammable vapor, gas, and many dust cloud atmospheres.
Overfilling or overloading of bags.
This may seem like common sense, however, safety requires overstating the obvious.
When bags are either overfilled, or filled with more weight than they are rated for they may fail to perform as intended despite passing tension and tensile strength rating test.
Typically these failure leads to:
- bulk package tipping and falling over
- bursting seams cause additional hazards such as slippery floors
- lift loops that rip open and sometimes even tear completely off
Understanding how bulk bag rating works
Bags are typically rated at a 5:1 or 6:1 safe working load.
In other words, if a bulk package bag is rated to hold 2,000 lbs., it must pass a tension test at a minimum 10,000 lbs. to achieve a 5:1 ratio or 12,000 lbs to meet a 6:1.
Obviously, exceeding the test standard is the goal of bulk bag manufacturers.
Knowing the signs of danger
Below is a common type of tag (and required to be attached) to bulk bags used in the US.
This tag should always be checked for items like capacity (weight rating) and other handling guidelines.
Most will include pictographs with illustration of what to and not to do when handling industrial bulk sized bags.
The common issues associated with unloading industrial bulk bags
As you can imagine, the most common cause of injuries with bulk bags revolve around the discharging operations.
- The hazard of opening bulk bags
In the early days of bag use (late 1960’s) bags were commonly supported by forklifts or cranes, and a person would either stand or reach under them to untie a discharge spout or simply cut the bag with a knife.
This led to operators who were crushed, or covered in material.
It is always recommended (and often required by OHSA inspectors) that bags must have a structural support from underneath with the capacity to hold the entire weight of the bag, and that the operator reach under that support to access/ cut the bag spout.
This can be something as exotic as a bag shaped receiver hoppers or paddles/plates on (4) sides, or as simple as a set of tubes, or even lumber, that the bag can be lowered onto for safe access.
- Dangers of combustion
Just as in bag filling, there can be static generated as material is discharged from the bag.
In these cases the bag and equipment must be properly grounded to create a safe operating environment.
- Hazards of dust inhalation.
Dust mitigation or control is important as well.
Bags with dusty/aerated materials should be discharged with systems designed to minimize the operator’s exposure.
This can include the use of mechanical or pneumatic spout sealing systems (bag spout is sealed prior to opening), or an isolation valve like an iris valve to allow the operator to untie the bag, but close an access door prior to material flowing from the spout.
In extreme cases (toxic or hazardous materials) a glove box access with positive dust control may be required.
- Pinch points on bulk bag unloading systems.
If there are actuated massaging systems, they may need to be guarded from operators reaching into them.
This is also true of bag elongating systems, if they are in proximity of the operator, they can present pinching (tube-in-tube) or crushing opportunities.
When multiple units are required they it is a good idea to bolt or weld them together to ensure joint integrity and equipment stability.
However, when using manual torquing tools be sure not to pinch your hands / fingers as you compression the beams together.
Also, when installing and manually tightening foundation fasteners on rough surfaces beware of scraping your knuckles, known by most MRO professionals as “busted knuckles“.
For this reason always wear gloves.
When using Titan HD anchors you can use an impact, or pneumatic torque to fastening stud heads into concrete.
However, according to Bob Carlisle, President of Concrete Fasteners most anchors typically require low torque pressure and therefore impact-type torque wrenches are ill-advised for all other types of anchor bolts.
Fasteners can fail due to an unnerving variety of common and simple reasons, many of which are overlooked and are caused by normal routine maintenance practices and procedures.
One of the most common reasons is over-tightening.
The US National Science Foundation has a 13 pages document that teaches all about structural bolt tightening — if interested check it out:
Structural Steel High-Strength Bolt Installation and Inspection Procedures >>>
This basic anchor installation training video by Simpson Strong-Tie is a must see:
The common issues associated with industrial bulk bag lifting
Bags are typically lifted either by forklift or crane/hoist via lift loops attached to the top of the bag.
- Both require special attention be given to your equipment and your technique.
- Bags may have 1, 2, 4, or more lift loops or straps sewn into them.
- The most common bags have (4) lift loops (1 at each corner of the bag).
- These lift loops can be standard loops or spread straps.
- Either style can be lifted directly by fork lifts with tines that are not sharp (sharp tines can abrade or cut the lift loops and cause the bag to fail or fall).
- Forks that are used for lifting bags should be inspected on a regular basis to insure they have rounded edges (it is recommended that they have a 5mm radius on all top edges).
Safety lifting a bag takes skills and patience
Due to the process required to attach bags directly to fork tines by the fork driver alone — that is:
- the fork truck must carefully pull up to the top of bag on one side,
- the driver must get off the lift truck,
- feed first loops onto tines and hope they don’t fall off as you…
- get back on the lift truck
- drive the lift forward to index the tines to the other side of the bag,
- get off the lift truck again
- feed the second set of loops onto the tines
- get back on the forklift
- pull forward once more
- and, finally lift the bag.
If another operator is assisting in this process it is faster, but puts the operator in harms way with the fork lift tines and wheels.
There are adapters that make this process much quicker and safer.
The forklift simply pulls into pockets with the forks, hovers over the bag to be lifted, attaches all of the loops into secure connections, then lifts the bag with the adapter.
These adapters should be sourced from reputable suppliers with test load certifications for their designs.
The common issues associated with industrial bulk bag storage
Most bags are single layer stored on the floor, or in pallet racking.
While double and even triple stacking is permissible in most cases (bags need to be designed for such), there are some dangers operators must be conscience of.
If bags are unstable (have materials or bag designs that create unpredictable shapes, are leaning), or are not suited to have the additional bag weight added to the top, stacking should be avoided.
Things get especially messy and hazardous if a bag on the first level of a stack has been punctured.
In the image to the left you see the result of improper stacking and bottom level bulk bags split open.
This situation need to be handled with the utmost care as bags above these leaking bags can lean or topple, crushing an operator or other equipment.
Bulk bag handling equipment & storage racks solve problems
Rob Rohena, Marketing Director of AMG Bolting Solutions has many memorable stories related to fallen bulk bag stacks of fiber glass and resin from his days at an industrial insulation company he worked for between 2004 – 2010 called Anco Products Inc.
I remember after one of the sister companies Grunau had success implementing lean in 2005, Anco followed suit in 2007.
We started with a lean manufacturing process called 5S.
One of the first things we did was sort the area out, then we mapped out an organized way to set things in order.
Our maintenance team installed bulk bag racking, including concrete floor and wall anchors.
Then, we cleaned up the area, painted stacking lanes for the resin bags which were once storage elsewhere in the plant.
We really shined things up.
We implement a TMP schedule that included standardized cleaning of the area to minimize dust hazards.
And, at least until I left the company in March of 2010 the lean manufacturing process was sustained.
The racks really made a difference, but, presented several dangers we did not have before.
For example, these 2000-3000 lbs bulk bags once sat on top of each other on the ground. Now, they are suspended into the air with a forklift and placed on racking 4 tiers high.
Fortunately, API has some really skilled forklift drivers.
BONUS: Other Safety Considerations
- Avoid Reusing Bulk Bags
It is not uncommon that these bag are used for more than one trip.
Typically bags that are to be used more than once will have design features (greater capacity ratings, support strapping or reinforcements, etc.) to ensure a safe arrangement.
The bags must also be well maintained and inspected to avoid issues as they are filled and discharged multiple times.
Checking for closed discharge spouts, holes, rips in seams, worn or abraded lift loops are just a few of the items to check.
As mentioned at the top of this article, FIBC’s are one of the safest and most efficient ways to handle semi-bulk materials.
In general you must consider the costs of workmen’s compensation claims, wrongful death suits, OHSA fines, Environmental Impact and Insurance Carrier premium increases when selecting equipment and training employees on the use of bulk handling equipment and supplies.
You must also education your equipment purchasing agent and MRO personal to manage the budget for FIBC’s bulk bags and its supporting cast of accessories with these “hidden cost” in mind.
With just a few precautions, you can ensure a safe working environment for operators, workers, and visitors.
There are many other resources available online and through your bag or equipment supplier.
Of course, FormPak, Inc. will gladly answer any of your bulk bag handling questions, and AMG Bolting Solutions is available to help you find the best solutions for anchoring equipment and tightening fasteners accurately.
You can also use the comment form below to share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions related to Super Sack Handling Equipment Fastening and Safety.