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January 19, 2021

Tips for Safe Use of Bulk Bag Fillers

Reliable bulk bag filling is an essential part of operations. Both the bag itself and the filling equipment used must be designed to ensure safety and efficiency.

According to the Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container Association (FIBCA), the bag should be suited for the filling and emptying environment in which it is used. Consult the attached “bag tag” for weight rating and capacity, along with the manufacturer’s handling guidelines. 

Bag tag

Like all FIBC handling equipment, fillers must be specifically designed for use with bulk bags. They must be rated for the weight of the filled FIBC and adhere to approved handling methods. They must also come equipped with proper safety loop and spout connections. 

In addition to selecting the correct bag and equipment, operators must follow best practices to minimize the risk of injury. Let’s go over some of the most important safety considerations when filling bulk bags.

Proper Support

Lack of proper support will cause a filled bulk bag to lean dangerously to one side, creating a safety hazard to nearby personnel.

The rule of thumb is the bag must be supported off the corners about 3” to 4” from the pallet during filling. This allows the fabric to stretch properly and avoid leaning or slumping. The filler must also accommodate proper support whether or not a pallet is used. A suitable filling frame will support the entire weight of a filled bag. 

Correct Use of Liners

FIBCA safety guidelines call for pre-inflating bag liners prior to use in most cases (formed/attached liners may not require pre-infalation). The liner should extend past the fill spout or duffle, and it must be properly secured during filling and discharge. Operators must tie off the liner within the fill spout or duffle in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Choose a bulk bag filler with a pre-fill inflator for lined bags to make filling more efficient, safe, and for a better end product. Consider pre-inflation methods such as a compressed air venturi or expander, or a positive displacement blower. 

Pre-Inspection of Bags and Equipment

Prior to attachment of the bag to filling system, an inspection of bag loops, body, spout and bottom should be performed to insure the package is suitable for filling.  Also, an inspection of the equipment to include the spout seal, scale, height adjustment and any other attachment/support components should be completed.

Avoid Overfilling or Overloading

Operators must never exceed the safe working load (SWL) capacity of the bulk bag in use. FIBCs must never be filled to a level that affects stability, or that exceeds height-to-width limitations. 

Bags are typically rated at a 5:1 or 6:1 SWL ratio. For example, a bag rated to hold 2,000 pounds must pass a test at 10,000 pounds to meet the 5:1 standard. This means the bags are extremely well built, and safe, however, pushing these limits beyond the stated capacity may have dire consequences. Overfilling the bag by size, or overloading by weight, creates a number of safety hazards. The bag may tip over or burst, the seams could rip open or the lift loops could rip off.

A scale-controlled filler helps to fill bags to the precise weight required for each application. For products that have trouble settling, a vibration or thumping densification may offer a good solution. A filler that accommodates mechanical adjustments is ideal for filling bags of varying heights and weights, or even filling two bags on a single pallet (bag-on-bag). 

Sealing & Dust Containment

Operators must not be exposed to dust when filling bags. The fill spout or duffle must be closed and sealed during filling, as well as securely closed once full. Operators should also inspect the bag to ensure the bottom discharge spout is securely closed prior to filling.

Equipment should enable the fill spout to be properly sealed without the operator having to hold it in an awkward position. Never use inferior sealing devices such as bungee cords. Bulk bag fillers should include dust-tight connections and efficient dust collection mechanisms. 

Special Considerations for Auto-Eject Filling Systems

More automated filling systems may include automatic release of the bag spout and lift loops, and drive the full bag from the machine via roller conveyors. 

While these systems offer improved ergonomics and allow the operator to be outside of the bag removal and forklift traffic, they require some important behavior and awareness to avoid injury. Operators must ensure that they do not have fingers, arms or other appendages near automatically moving mechanical systems. They must also stay clear of and never stand on powered rollers, belts or other conveying devices. These systems should include proper E-Stops, lockouts, disconnects, interlocks and even buzzer or light warnings when operating in automatic mode.

Dust Mitigation

Many dry materials create a static charge as they flow into or out of the bag, creating a risk of electric shock or a dust explosion. 

To mitigate the risk, the bag, all handling equipment and operators must all be properly grounded throughout the filling or emptying process. Dust mitigation procedures will also vary depending on the type of bag or product in use. For example, Type C FIBCs that contain flammable substances must be grounded, along with filling or unloading equipment. 

 

If you need more information on choosing the safest bulk bag filler for your operations, We’re here to help. Get in touch with us at FormPak today!