In steel mills and foundries, workers face extreme temperatures and a number of dangers, from ladles of molten metal to potential steam explosions during slag handling.
One of the protections in place to keep workers safe are blast-resistant window systems. These window systems cannot rely on just any glass. The glass material must have unique technical properties in order to meet a number of requirements.
Here’s how technical glass holds up in one of the most extreme work environments.
The two biggest dangers of working in a steel mill are fire and slag explosions. Liquid steel can range in temperature from 2,730 to 2,890 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a fire hazard if it comes into contact with anything from fuel to conveyor belts. The same goes for the slag, which is the byproduct of the process that separates metal from ore. The most dangerous combinations and reactions occur when hot, molten slag interacts with water.
What is a slag explosion?
You may not expect it, but water plays an important role in the steel-making process. Slag is commonly “watered” to lower its temperature during cooling and tempering. Watering slag the right way allows steam to escape. However, if slag comes into contact with water in a confined compartment, the water heats up so fast that it turns instantly into steam, causing a vapor explosion. This is extremely dangerous and can result in deadly accidents.
The blast-resistant window system, needed to protect workers, must stand up to the force of an explosion as well as the extreme heat encountered every day.
To test different configurations, equipment manufacturers put several glass configurations to the test, including one trial that used five tons of TNT, to simulate blasts far beyond the force of a slag explosion.
The results showed the best materials and construction to shield workers from the extreme heat of molten rock and metal while loading and unloading slag.