Barrier Isolators are found in many areas of modern chemical and pharmaceutical process plants and are designed to keep operators safe and processed products free from contamination.
From an operator perspective, the design of a barrier isolator loosely falls into one of two categories: working outside the equipment using long-reach gloves (glove boxes) or working inside the equipment in a sealed half suit. The impact of these designs on sustained operator performance can be significant.
Operators working with barrier isolators conduct a wide range duties ranging from mixing, blending and weighing powders to compounding, loading/un-loading dried cake and formulation. This typically involves manual lifting, moving, twisting, pulling, pushing and bending at operator extended hand/arm reach.
Health & safety statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for the Pharmaceutical industry sector show that manual handling and back injuries account for around 70% of the reportable injuries in the sector.
This is significant and it is just the tip of the iceberg, as this does not include the unreported injuries. If we look at the pharmaceutical operations, one type of plant equipment stands out as a prime candidate for causing many of these injuries – Barrier Isolators. Best practice businesses recognise that operator comfort is a prime consideration of equipment design, specifically for all repetitive human processes. Men and women are all built differently; some small, some tall, each with long/short arms and each with different muscle strength capabilities. Given this fact, it is wise to adopt the following ABC approach to barrier isolator supplier selection.
Know Your "A"
Firstly always install a bespoke barrier isolator, which is configured to suit your operations and your operators as this will help to ensure maximum production throughput with minimum operator injury or operator discomfort. Off-the-shelf isolators are very unlikely to meet all your operational stakeholder needs. Any purchase cost difference, compared to that of a bespoke isolator, is insignificant when considered over the working life of the isolator and the resulting productivity gains of “getting it right” at the design stage.
Know Your "B"
Secondly, given that some operators working with barrier isolators will be processing hazardous, potent and toxic substances, it is essential that the design of the barrier isolator incorporates built-in safety features such as pneumatic door interlocks, low/high pressure alarms and emergency safety kick-bars/buttons. Look to select a reputable supplier who designs equipment using 3D CAD so that all such aspects of the isolator can easily be visualised and checked by the implementation team at the design stage.
Know Your "C"
Ergonomics is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system. Thirdly, ensure that the isolator supplier gives the operators/ implementation team the opportunity to review a working sized ergo-built isolator. This is an essential element of the isolator design process in order to iron out any potential reach/cleaning issues that were not apparent at the 3D CAD modelling stage. Ergo- Isolator access will further ensure operator comfort and this directly correlates to reduced injury likelihood. Wherever possible, the use of a sealed half-suit is preferable over glove ports as the operator extended reach/lift problem is largely eliminated.
Schematic Engineering Industries, located in the UK and Hyderabad – India, is engaged in design, manufacture, assembly, testing, installation and commissioning of barrier isolators with half-suits and/or glove ports for the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors, specialising in bespoke, client specific designs. The company is a pioneer in good ergonomically designed barrier isolators. Their experienced isolator team applies theory, principles, data and methods to design their isolators to optimise human well-being and overall system performance, designing everything in 3D CAD for maximum visuality. Once the isolator system has been ergonomically and operationally optimised on-screen in conjunction with the client’s inputs, Schematic then creates a life-sized wooden model of the isolator. Once built, they invite the client’s operators to test and sign-off on the systems ergonomics, for variables such as operator reach, system working height, the ability to clean corners (SIP), access doors as well as the ease of maintenance of the unit. This helps clients reduce their operator injuries, reduce work-related absenteeism and ultimately improve the operator health, all of which directly impacts on plant productively.
Industrial centrifuges are used in many industry sectors from molecular biology to biochemistry. More specifically in the pharmaceutical industry, centrifuges are used for the production of bulk drugs, biological products, colloids and in the evaluation of suspensions and emulsions. The manufacture of drugs, vaccines, medicines, penicillin, mycelia, E-coli bacteria, algae and enzymatic waste is only possible because of the use of such equipment.
Centrifuges are used for separating solids from liquids, liquid-liquid separation, and liquid-liquid-solid separation. They do this by using centrifugal force (g-force) to isolate suspended particles from their surrounding medium on either a batch or a continuous flow basis. This operation is governed by the law of physics known as Stokes Law, which outlines the resisting force on a small particle moving through a viscous fluid.
The two main types of industrial centrifuges are sedimentation and filtering centrifuges, both of which are invariably used for the particle separation of hazardous, potent and sensitive fluids which are either harmful to human health or intolerant to exposure from atmospheric contaminants. Therefore, in such cases a barrier isolator is built around the centrifuge so that the manual processing of such substances can be conducted in a safe, contained and/or totally isolated manner.
Turnkey solutions eliminate operational problems
Procuring equipment from a single company who has the capability, systems and experience to supply a turnkey solution for a complex item such as a Centrifuge Barrier Isolator is particularly advantageous in that the design team of that company can look at the whole picture rather than just sections of it.
Schematic Engineering Industries are leaders in the design and manufacture of Centrifuge Barrier Isolators used for full containment and fluid/particle separation of highly potent, toxic, hazardous and/or sensitive materials.
Schematic are based in the UK and Hyderabad, India and specialise in offering such turnkey complex solutions so that the respective elements of the hybrid design work in synergy resulting in benefits for both operators and product quality alike.
Alan Roddis, UK Director of Schematic says, “Basic elements such as opening a heavy centrifuge lid by an operator inside an isolator half-suit can be greatly improved with a little innovation of the holistic system”.
Alan continues, “Even on plant upgrade projects, equipment innovation is nearly always possible on Centrifuge Barrier Isolators where an existing centrifuge is to be used and sited inside a new supply barrier isolator. Take the addition of side-entry glove ports. By positioning these adjacent to the half-suits stations it allows items to be passed to the half-suit operators without the need for their dangerous twisting and lifting at full stretch. The saying, ‘many hands make light work’ is very true and especially applicable for equipment designs such as Barrier Isolators.”
“Appearance is not design…. Design is the way it works”: Steve Jobs, 1955-2011