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A DSEAR Goodbye to Dippy the Diplodocus

by | Dec 9, 2016 | Engineering Design & HSE

In the New Year one of the UK’s most treasured visitor attractions will say goodbye to arguably its most recognisable exhibit. Dippy the diplodocus has been the star feature at The Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, UK. For more than 100 years, his 21.3 metre frame has been greeting visitors as they enter the famous central hall.

One of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions, The Natural History Museum draws more than 5 million people every year. The museum is also a leading science research centre, with a collection that contains over 70 million botanical items, 55 million exhibits of animals, 9 million relics from archaeological digs and 500,000 rocks and minerals.

It is also home to more than 22 million “wet” specimens – stored in sample bottles and conserved in preservatives. The museum is in fact the world’s largest collection of preserved life forms, with priceless specimens having been collected over the last 300 years by notable explorers including Charles Darwin and Captain Cook. In addition to being on-show for the public, the collection is also used by scientists for on-going research that tells them more about our planet.

The specimens are stored in formaldehyde or industrial methylated spirit (IMS), which needs topping up regularly due to the continuous handling and loss of media. This maintenance had involved carrying heavy containers of alcohol through various halls and levels within the museum, which inevitably carried DSEAR (Dangerous Substance and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations) associated risks.
GSE Systems Ltd. was brought on board to complete a DSEAR risk assessment. They found that the regulations controlling such substances would likely mean the need for a change in the building’s classification. Our UK team of highly skilled engineers were commissioned to prepare a scheme for a new IMS storage and distribution system, which would meet all current DSEAR standards and legislation.

We produced a successful scheme for the storage facility in the Museum’s Darwin Centre, which adheres closely to current best practices. The scheme not only satisfied all legislation requirements, but also worked around many of the physical constraints imposed by the site’s location in the centre of bustling London. The new IMS storage facility and internal pump distribution system allows specimen jars within the labs on each floor of the building to be topped up with ease.

The system is equipped with a fully automated control system that features a touchscreen operator interface and web access facility. This allows museum staff to view the status of the system from any location within the building.

Our engineers also worked with museum staff to develop a range of DSEAR safety protocols, alongside other automated monitoring precautions, that ensure any losses and leaks are quickly identified.
This is just one example of our “cradle to grave” approach to engineering project management in action – and we’re proud to have had the opportunity to work in such a prestigious national institution. We have completed similar projects for a wide range of customers across multiple industries, including fuel storage facilities, a breakfast cereal manufacturer, a waste-to-energy plant, a soft drinks producer and a high-tech filter manufacturer.

Dippy’s last day at the NHM is 4th January 2017, after which he’ll be dismantled and start a new, adventurous two-year long nationwide tour. Although our work was somewhat behind the scenes, it played an important part in allowing the Natural History Museum to continue its mission – to preserve the world’s largest collection of rare and wonderful specimens for future generations.

To learn more about DSEAR and how to mitigate risks associated with explosive atmospheres, read our free white paper or click to watch our webinar.



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