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Case Studies » Helios

The challenge

Helios Homeopathy Ltd is a well-established homoeopathic pharmacy; who manufacture their own remedies and provide expert advice. As part of the manufacturing processes at its site in Tunbridge Wells; there is a need to hold supplies of Ethanol which was a key focus of the DSEAR assessment undertaken. Ethanol would typically be ordered at 96% concentration and would then be diluted to produce a stock.

From the survey it was evident that there were controls missing to deal with flammable vapours. Clearly the Ethanol is generally contained inside sealed containers and the risks will be less because of this; however it is possible the operations may generate a flammable atmosphere under certain conditions. To ensure the risks were adequately controlled a risk assessment was undertaken to identify areas where the Dangerous Goods and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) may apply.

The solution provided

A survey was undertaken for Helios Homeopathy Ltd facility in Tunbridge Wells in February 2014. The business has operated from the current premises for a number of years.

It was found that the operations were not complex but fundamentally there was a need to improve extraction and remove potential sources of ignition. A concern was that flammable solvent would be released during the decanting process and this came into contact with an unprotected source of ignition it may ignite and where contained may explode.

Hence there was a need for LEV to the bench; and as control of airborne vapour levels relies upon the extraction working efficiently the HSE suggest that any LEV system should be fitted with a low flow/no flow alarm to clearly identify if a problem develops.

In summary it is impossible to avoid flammable atmospheres occurring at times given that Ethanol is decanted and therefore the control of ignition sources such as unprotected electrical sockets and equipment, including static electricity, is essential.

From the survey it was clear that the key DSEAR risks for the Helios Homeopathy Ltd operations is mainly concerned with the decanting and storage. Ethanol is classified as highly flammable and further controls were required to limit the risk of explosive concentrations being reached and remove any sources of ignition.

A key basis for safety in this type of operation is to ensure adequate ventilation of all process areas to remove flammable vapour at source and thus dilution of hazard to a tolerable level of risk.

A defining principle for DSEAR is to reduce the quantity of dangerous substances held on-site to a minimum. Regulation 6 identifies that where it is reasonably practicable an employer should reduce the risk by substituting the dangerous substance with one that is not dangerous or less dangerous. As Ethanol is a key component to the products created this is not possible but quantities held outside of suitable storage should be kept to a minimum.

All relevant site issues were considered and a detailed DSEAR report, hazardous zoning plan and series of recommendations was issued to management to ensure sufficient control of DSEAR risks is maintained.