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Case Studies » Oxford Instruments

The challenge

A visit was made to the Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology facility in Yatton, December 2013 to consider compliance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). More recently a re validation inspection was completed In 2017.

Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology provides a range of high performance, flexible tools to semiconductor and electronic processing customers in both R&D and production. As part of this the processes on site include the use of multiple gases and some solvents.

From the survey it was evident that some substances used around the site were combustible and could generate a flammable atmosphere under certain conditions. Hence a risk assessment was undertaken to identify areas where the Dangerous Goods and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) may apply.

The solution provided

The survey looked at the key DSEAR risk areas across the site and each operation was considered in respect of process risk and potential hazards. The scope of the report provided to the client covered both operational and storage issues for the site.

Handling of hazardous substances at the site is typically within contained vessels and potential for formation of a flammable or explosive mixture in air was considered as potentially a possibility but with good controls applied should not present too many risks.

The nature of the operations meant the use of a wide range of pressurised gases was critical (some of which are flammable) to supply the tools in the clean rooms. There were a range of controls in place to ensure the safe use of these gases including gas leak detection, double skins for pipework, purging systems and nitrogen protection (where appropriate).

Overall it was seen that process operations were well-stewarded with training delivered and purpose-designed equipment subject to periodic review.

From the survey it was clear that the key DSEAR risks for the site operations were mainly concerned with the use of pressurised gases and although there were a limited number of other materials these were deemed to present limited risks in respect of DSEAR.

Recognised standards and guidance were used in determining the appropriate status and extent of DSEAR hazardous zones for site operations. Significant findings from the survey were set out in the DSEAR report, along with recommendations to mitigate fire and explosion hazards or support best practice on-site.

Hazardous area classification applies to those areas where a flammable atmosphere may persist either briefly or for longer periods of time as outlined in the regulations – specifically within confines of equipment or around flammable handling or storage locations.

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.

A detailed site review was completed in 2017 looking at progress against the previous audit and incorporating any additional processes that had been added.