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Key Complexities in Bulk Material Handling for Chemical Manufacturers

May 14, 2024

Bulk material handling is an essential aspect of chemical manufacturing and processing operations, encompassing the movement, storage, and processing of raw materials, intermediates, and finished products in large quantities.

However, this process comes with a myriad of risks and challenges that chemical manufacturers and processors must navigate to ensure operational efficiency, product quality, and workplace safety.

We’ll explore these key risks, alongside figures and statistics, helping to plan for success when conveying challenging chemical powders and bulk materials.

Risk of Chemical Exposure and Contamination

Chemical handling poses inherent risks of exposure to hazardous substances, which can have detrimental effects on worker health and safety.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chemical exposure accounted for approximately 55,000 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2020 alone.

Equipment Wear and Corrosion

Chemical substances can be corrosive to equipment components, leading to premature wear and failure.

According to a study published in the Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention, corrosion-related failures accounted for over 20% of equipment failures in chemical processing plants.

Dust Generation and Explosion Hazards

Handling powders and finely divided materials in bulk material handling processes can generate dust, posing risks of combustible dust explosions.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board reports that dust explosions caused 143 fatalities and 850 injuries in the U.S. between 1980 and 2020.

Material Segregation and Mixing Issues

Segregation and mixing of materials can occur during handling and transportation, leading to inconsistencies in product quality and composition.

A study published in the Journal of Powder Technology & Pharmaceutical Processing found that material segregation accounted for product quality issues in over 30% of pharmaceutical manufacturing processes.

Regulatory Compliance Challenges

Chemical manufacturers and processors must adhere to stringent regulatory requirements governing the handling, storage, and transportation of hazardous substances.

Non-compliance can result in hefty fines, legal liabilities, and damage to reputation.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that chemical manufacturing facilities paid over $175 million in civil penalties for environmental violations in 2020.

Worker Safety Concerns

Ensuring the safety of workers involved in bulk material handling operations is paramount for chemical manufacturers.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the chemical manufacturing industry reported a total of 1.3 recordable cases of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers in 2020.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

Chemical manufacturing processes can have significant environmental impacts, including air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource depletion.

Adopting sustainable practices and technologies in bulk material handling can help mitigate these impacts.

The World Economic Forum estimates that the chemical industry accounts for approximately 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.


Bulk material handling in chemical manufacturing and processing presents a myriad of risks and challenges, ranging from chemical exposure and equipment wear to dust explosions and regulatory compliance issues.

By implementing robust safety protocols, investing in reliable equipment and technologies, and staying abreast of regulatory developments, chemical manufacturers can mitigate these risks and ensure safe, efficient, and sustainable operations.

UniTrak has a deep understanding of the complexities of bulk material handling in the chemical industry and offers innovative solutions designed to address the unique challenges faced by manufacturers.

Contact us today to learn how we can help optimize your bulk material handling processes and enhance your operational efficiency and safety.

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