Health and Safety in Anaerobic Digestion

Agrivert’s track record in Anaerobic Digestion (AD) from designing, building and operating plants gives us a comprehensive understanding of the numerous risks associated with the sector, from the presence of explosive gases to working at height. Ensuring your staff, contractors and visitors make it home safely at the end of the day must be every company’s top priority and doing so can have positive consequences for employee productivity, morale and the bottom line. It is no surprise that research finds a clear link between a company’s health and safety culture and its ability to outperform its competitors.

Health and Safety in Anaerobic Digestion

Compliance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) is required because AD facilities are designed to produce methane-rich biogas as a source of renewable energy. Additionally, hydrogen sulphide will be a component of the biogas, to which exposure at even low concentrations can result in a loss of consciousness. This is especially important when working in confined spaces as gas is heavier than air.

A less well-understood risk comes with the unsafe management of feedstocks within the site’s clamps, particularly when you factor in lone working and working at height. The temptation to overfill your clamp during a particularly good harvest period can give rise to hazards later due to the increased potential for collapses to occur during feeding. However, there are a number of ways staff can be trained to minimise the risk of accident while unloading silage clamps and if good procedures are in place and adhered to, silage handling can be completed safely.

With experience, risks associated with biogas plants can be minimised by general good practice. For Agrivert, this starts with the integrity of design and construction, including a comprehensive HAZOP review. Upon moving into the commissioning and operational phase, DSEAR/ATEX procedures must be in place, along with the use of gas meters and alarms. In addition, removing any sources of ignition, having a robust permit to work system backed up by risk assessment (RAMS) procedures, and having proper purging and isolation systems, should all be in place as standard.

Biogas plants have their own unique and elevated health and safety risk profile. Staff, visitors and contractors must be inducted and briefed on these risks as they may not have seen them on other industrial facilities.

Ultimately, your goal should be developing a robust and ingrained health and safety culture from the bottom up, which at all times is supported by top-down leadership.

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