You might not imagine ripening mangoes would require hazardous area equipment, but a novel method of improving the ripening process could see ex equipment become a sensible precaution when storing and transporting the fruit immediately after harvest.

Writing in an upcoming edition of the journal Postharvest Biology and Technology, researchers explain how an ‘inclusion complex’ powder containing ethylene can gradually release ethylene gas into mango storage containers.

This takes up to a day in static storage, improves the uniformity of ripening, and reduces the total ripening time from around 15 days to about 10.

In transport, the process takes around 48 hours, and can reduce total ripening time by 3-6 days.

However, the researchers note that ethylene gas in concentrations above 2.7% in the air can pose a risk of explosion.

The trade-off is one of safety – an improvement in uniform ripening and a reduction of about a third in ripening times, for the introduction of a potentially explosive gas.

But it does not have to be an unbalanced compromise, as ex equipment can help to make sure that where ethylene gas is able to accumulate, it is not in the presence of a source of ignition.

This is just one example of how explosive substances may be present in industries with little direct experience of managing the risks associated with them – making hazardous area equipment even more important in protecting unfamiliar members of the workforce in the nearby environment.