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Explosion venting protection systems: Common misconceptions

Explosion venting protection systems are a common method of preventing explosions, but there are misconceptions surrounding their effectiveness.

Explosion venting protection systems are an established method of preventing or mitigating the effects of explosions. It is crucial that all relevant organisations familiarise themselves with the measures and techniques available to minimise the risk of explosion and ensure the protection of their personnel.

Explosion venting protection is an approach commonly used in commercial and industrial settings where there is a flammable atmosphere present and ignition sources cannot be reliably controlled. Systems and devices are structured to nullify excessive internal, explosion-incurred pressures by means of pressure relief. Designed to work autonomously, devices and systems remain dormant and operate automatically when required to help counter the threat of deflagration. 

However, explosion venting protection systems are not a “fit and forget” safeguard. All explosion venting protection systems require careful design, installation, and ongoing maintenance to protect equipment or buildings against potential explosions. 

There are various misunderstandings in this area of risk mitigation that can lead to a false sense of security and potentially put personnel at risk of harm. Common misconceptions surrounding explosion venting protection include:

  • Explosion venting protection devices provide complete protection.
    Explosion venting devices – when designed and installed correctly – can mitigate deflagration risks. However, they do not provide absolute protection and rarely eliminate all explosion-related risks. They are designed to minimise the impact of a deflagration through the opening of a low-inertia, weakened panel at a predetermined pressure. This reduces overpressure within the enclosure to prevent failure and fragmentation. 

  • Explosion venting protection devices eliminate the need for other safety measures. 
    Explosion venting protection devices should be considered as part of a comprehensive safety strategy that includes other preventive measures. Explosion venting devices should be seen as supplementary to measures such as explosion isolation that prevent propagation and trigger detection to enable automated safe shutdown of processes or plants. 

  • Explosion venting devices are maintenance free.
    Explosion venting devices require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure their continued effectiveness. Devices can degrade or become damaged over time – compromising their ability to provide an adequate level of protection. Regular inspection and maintenance are essential to ensure that devices remain in proper working condition. 

  • Explosion venting protection devices are a one-time investment.
    The installation of explosion venting devices is an initial safety investment. The maintenance, inspection, and replacement of these devices incurs ongoing mitigation costs. Additionally, as industrial processes change or new hazards are identified, modifications or upgrades to the overall explosion protection system may be necessary. 

  • Explosion venting devices are foolproof.
    Explosion venting devices can fail under certain circumstances. Improper installation, inadequate maintenance, adverse weather conditions, and adverse process conditions can compromise the effectiveness of these devices and lead to failure.

It is important to regularly review and update the Basis of Safety file to account for any potential failures or limitations of relevant explosion vent protection systems.  Where organisations and processes rely on such systems from preventing explosions and blast effects, incorrect operation or system and device failures could be disastrous.

For further information and assistance on new or existing explosion vent protection systems, contact your Marsh adviser.