Safe Practices for FIBC Bulk Bag Handling

Picking the right FIBCs for your business is all well and good. However, if you want to streamline your operation and maintain a secure working environment, you need to think about safe handling best practices. Confused about various  FIBC categories? Need some guidance on safe handling and proper storage? Read on for everything you need to know.

Choosing the Right FIBC Bulk Bag

Before you start thinking about safe handling practices, you’ll need to ensure that the FIBC bulk bags you’re using are the right ones for your business. Some FIBCs are better suited to certain tasks than others. What’s more, the industry you operate in plays a key role in the bulk bags you need to be using. A certain class of bag might be suitable in an agricultural setting, but it’s not going to pass muster if you’re involved in chemical manufacturing.

One of the most important FIBC factors to consider is size. You’ll need bulk bags that are sufficiently large enough to handle the materials you’re working with. Additionally, you’ll need bags that can be accommodated by your handling methods. When sizing potential bulk bags, think about the density of your product, as well as the size of the pallets you’re currently using.

Fortunately, FIBCs are divided into several categories to make selecting the right one for your operation easy. Type A bags are typically made from woven polypropylene and are generally very robust and flexible. However, while they’re a cost-effective solution, they’re not suitable for applications such as handling flammable materials. Type B bags are largely identical to Type A bags. The exception here is that Type B bulk bags feature an extra coating that prevents sparks.

If you’re dealing with volatile materials such as flammable powders, Type C bags are something to consider. While better suited to hazardous materials, they don’t offer antistatic protection. As such, you’ll need to ensure bags are grounded before they’re filled or lifted. Finally, there are Type D bags. These bulk bags can be used to store hazardous materials, while their antistatic properties mean you don’t need to worry about grounding them.

General Guidelines

The Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container Association (FIBCA) reaffirms the importance of consulting closely with FIBC suppliers and manufacturers to source the right bulk bags for your operation. Furthermore, the FIBCA’s Safe Handling Guidelines underscore the need for selecting bulk bags that are approved for use in your industry setting.
Along with this, you’ll need to ensure bulk bags can be used with the product you’re handling and are safe to use in your working environment. This is vital if you’re dealing with explosive and flammable materials and need to think about electrostatic charges.

For peace of mind, it’s best to undertake regular quality assessments of the FIBC bags you’re using.  A typical inspection checklist should include looking for signs of moisture damage and identifying any splinters in the bag material. Lift loops and attachment areas also need to be carefully assessed. Finally, bulk bags need to be checked for signs of contamination. If a bag has been exposed to potentially hazardous materials, it may need replacing.

The operational life of FIBC bags can be extended considerably by adhering to some basic storage guidance. Make sure the latest industry standards are being followed when storing and transporting FIBC bags. Additionally, bulk bags should be stored in a moisture-free environment and protected against UV exposure.

Filling and Discharging

When it comes to filling and discharging bulk bags, the FIBC offers a comprehensive safety checklist. During discharging, all lift loops should be used. Although individual loops are incredibly robust, they are designed to be used together. Failure to do so can result in a single loop tearing and a bag dropping during discharging. What’s more, you should never use a single hook to gather multiple loops. Meanwhile, loops should be kept vertical at all times.

The safe working load of every FIBC should be clearly labeled. Never exceed this during filling. When filling, make sure that materials are evenly distributed. This maintains stability, ensuring the bag won’t topple over during discharging or filling. Once filled, bulk bags should be securely closed. This is particularly important when transporting a FIBC bulk bag, but even a stored bag can leak if it hasn’t been closed properly. If the FIBC bags you’re using have a discharge spout at the bottom, ensure these are also closed before you attempt to fill them.

You also need to consider the environment you’re working in. If you’re dealing with flammable or explosive materials, you need to be mindful of the risk posed by static electricity. To prevent accidental injury or worse during filling and discharging, make sure you’re using a Type C or D bag in these situations.

Handling by Forklift, Crane, or Hoist

No matter how you’re handling FIBC bulk bags, it’s crucial that you follow the latest safe handling guidelines laid out by the FIBC, as well as guidance provided by the manufacturer.

Before you attempt to handle a FIBC bag, you’ll need to check its condition and structural integrity. Even seemingly superficial damage can render a bulk bag unsuitable for handling by a crane, hoist, or forklift. The equipment you’re using to handle FIBC bags also needs to be considered. Any machinery should be able to accommodate the weight of a filled bulk bag. If equipment isn’t specifically designed for handling and lifting bulk bags, it should never be used.

What’s more, you need to check the condition of any tines, bars, or hooks. Even if the machinery itself has an adequately rated weight capacity, these lifting attachments might not be fit for purpose. If tines or hooks are too sharp, they can damage lifting loops, leading to accidental spillages.

General lifting best practice should also be followed. Make sure bulk bags are lifted and lowered gently. Meanwhile, all personnel should be fully briefed on the latest health and safety procedures and be wearing protective equipment.

Any pallets that you are using need to be size appropriate for the bulk bags you’re using. It’s almost important to use experienced forklift operators with experience in handling bulk bags. In every case, bags should be kept as low to the ground as possible. During transit, forklift operators need to maintain clear visibility at all times. Forklifts should also be stationary during the lifting and lowering of bags.

Storage and Transportation

The most important thing to remember when storing full and empty FIBC bags is to keep them in a secure and clean environment. Moisture and UV rays can damage the integrity of bulk bags, so exposure to the elements should be avoided. For added protection, bags should be covered at all times to minimize dust and moisture intrusion.

When stacking bags, it’s best to follow a supported stacking or pyramid method. With the supported stacking method, bags should be placed evenly against at least two retaining walls. With the pyramid stacking method, you’ll create a base layer of filled bags, before adding ever-decreasing tiers to form a pyramid shape. However, when using this stacking method, you need to ensure every layer is resting on at least four bags. 

When transporting FIBCs, make sure every bulk bag is properly secured. As well as being dangerous, unsecured FIBC bags can lead to unwanted spillages, rendering stored materials unfit for purpose.

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