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How to handle, store and dispense industrial lubricants safely

Worker putting boxes together on shelves in modern warehouse

The correct handling, storing and dispensary protocols of industrial lubricants is critical to protect plant operators from potential health hazards, and minimise any threat of environmental contamination. Common problems that maintenance professionals and plant managers face when dealing with a range of different lubricants include product mislabelling and products stored in areas with extreme temperatures. In this blog, we’ll explore the best practices for managing these products which are vital to keep industrial equipment protected and operating at maximum performance.

Handling lubricants

Lubricant handling includes all operations concerning the receipt of lubricant supplies to the transfer of products to in-site storage. The kind of handling involved is determined by how the lubrication solutions are received, which is either in bulk or individual packages.

Bulk products refer to deliveries by tank trucks and grease transporters, along with any container significantly larger than standard oil and grease drums. Before goods are received, certain precautions are required.

Storage tanks must be gauged to ensure sufficient capacity is available for the incoming delivery. Tanks which are empty must be inspected and, if necessary, flushed and cleaned. Tanks should also be checked to make sure the right fill pipe is in use and that valves are correctly set. If there are crossover valves in between storage tanks, these must be locked out.

It is always ideal to use a separate fill line/hose for every product, but this is not always possible. In such cases, the fill line/hose should always be drained and then flushed to minimise any risk of unwanted cross-contamination.

Packaged products include smaller containers and drums of lubricant. Many packaged lubricants can be easily unloaded from trucks without damage by sliding them down metal or wood ramps, but the ramps must first be secured to the transport. If lubricants are delivered on pallets, they can always be unloaded via forklift and directly transported to storage.

Following unloading, lubricants can be safely moved to the storage by forklift, either on pallets or gripped in specially designed fork jaws. If such equipment is unavailable, oil drums can be handled and transported by handlers or barrel trucks.

Storage of lubricants

Storing lubricants correctly requires adherence to specific guidelines. Lubricants must be protected from contamination and degradation, which can happen when products are stored at extreme temperatures.

Oils and greases should be stored in a designated place where they can be transferred in and out of storage with ease and should always be used, by employing the “first in and first out” approach to maximise expiry dates.

Maintenance operators should ensure product identification is always maintained and is clearly visible to users. To select the correct location for petroleum-product storage facilities, companies must consider safety, fire and insurance requirements.

Just like handling, guidelines for lubricant storage vary on whether stock is delivered in bulk or arrives packaged.

Packaged lubricant products may be stored externally in a warehouse, but outdoor storage is best avoided, if possible. Potential hazards of using outdoor storage are contamination by rust, dirt and water and extreme temperatures which can reduce the effectiveness of the physical properties of lubricants.

Warehouse storage can be suitable for lubricants. In such a facility shelving and rack space can be used to create sufficient protection for containers and provide adequate aisle space for manoeuvring regardless of the material handling solution used. The aforementioned “first in, first out” method must always be maintained.

Storage of bulk lubricants offer both operational and economic benefits. To avoid any need for clean-up or the contamination risk, users must remember that storage bins and tanks should only ever be employed for a single product. However, other factors must be considered.

Indoor storage locations are always preferable, to avoid the erratic temperatures encountered outside locations, and to minimise exposure to contaminants and atmospheric moisture. As a rule, storage sites should not be located in places where plant equipment like high-pressure steam lines could potentially cause direct heat or higher ambient temperatures to lubricants tanks. It is always imperative that extremely cold locations should not be used.

Dispensing industrial lubricants

The process of dispensing lubricant encompasses withdrawal from storage site and transfer to the area of use, along with the products application at its point of use. When industrial lubricants are dispensed using methods other than closed systems, devices like containers used to move solutions and any related products must always be kept clean.

All containers must be clearly labelled for a specific lubricant and only used for that product. The dispensing device utilised to add lubricant must always be cleaned carefully before any filling operation begins. Furthermore, areas which hold lubricant like reservoirs and sumps must also be flushed and cleaned thoroughly before filling and checked and cleaned when refilled.

By following these basic procedures, you can extend the lifespan of your lubricants, protect operators and avoid issues like cross contamination which can negate the properties of your lubricants.

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