It is natural that the industrial setting for many manufacturing and processing industries involves a variety of critical safety points. This is due to production systems, which utilise heavy machinery, chemicals and other sensitive materials and processes. Industrial hazards can include chemical exposure to the body, ergonomic hazards due to frequent and/or intense physical strain as well as other physical dangers, such as, heat or heavy moving parts.
One of the most dangerous casualties that can occur at a manufacturing unit or an industrial space is a fire outbreak. According to Fire Risk Survey (FRS) 2017, fire has entered the top five risks for the first time over the past three years, owing to the significant number of reported incidents causing losses to material and physical assets.
As far as the leading cause for fire is concerned, the electric defaults are regarded as the major cause of fires. Therefore, a careful selection of the materials utilised is important. This has led to the awareness of cables and wires used in industrial units. Nowadays, there are cables that have low smoke gas emission in the event of a fire, produce less (visible or invisible) toxic gases and do not conduct the flame like a fuse. Today, they are combined under the term-fire protection cables. In the event of a fire, they improve the chances of survival of people and reduce health risks associated with the inhalation of smoke. Elimination of fire hazards can also be done by each of us before, during and after the tasks are being accomplished.
The legislations, standards and codes have a vital role in forcing the occupants to provide the required fire protection system, both active and passive. Some of the latest safety standards that need to be followed are:
• Visible Felt Leadership (VFL) auditing programme by management, which is done to help resolve the problem in terms of funding, understand real issues and support terms of administration
• Adhering safety standards on fire prevention programmes in terms of fire risk areas
• Quarterly safety audit programme which looks at gap assessment
in legal, personnel protective equipment, machine guard, interlocks, fire safety, energy isolation measures like LOTOTO standards (Lock Out Tag Out & Try Out) and contractor safety implementation programme
• Training and certification programme which covers firefighting and lifesaving programme, material handling equipment, first aid and CPR
• Thermography testing and vibration analysis testing to keep the machine in healthy condition
Following are few types of fire outbreaks and general safety guidelines for shop floor employees to consider while working in a critical or hazardous environment:
• Combustible Dust is an insidious threat, which can lead to violent flash fires and explosions causing catastrophic loss of life and property
• Oil & Gas in industrial units can trigger fire and explosion at any time due to ignition of flammable vapours or gases. Flammable gases, such as, well gases, vapours and hydrogen sulphide can be released from wells, production equipment or surface equipment. Ignition sources can include static, electrical energy sources, open flames, lightning, cigarettes, cutting and welding tools, hot surfaces and frictional heat.
• Chemicals and lubricants can be triggered due to a chemical reaction that ignites a solid, liquid or gaseous chemical compound.
• Electrical sparks is caused due to exposed wiring, overloaded circuits and static discharge, which can thereby serve as an ignition source for combustible dust as well as flammable liquids and gases.
Safety guidelines for companies
Some of the general safety guidelines that companies must follow to keep accidents at bay are:
• Safety induction for all the visitors and employees
• Standard operating procedures like, contractor safety management, work at height, etc.,
• Selection and usage of personal protective equipment
• Permit system: Work at height, hot work permit, general work permit, critical lifting work permit
• Engaging family members in safety promotional activities
• Reporting all kinds of safety near misses and incidents
• Leadership skill development and reward and recognition to best safety personnels
To curb the above risks and the resulting damage, the cable industry has developed highly inflammable, halogen-free cables, fire survival cables, which meet these heightened safety requirements.
Halogen-free cables are completely free of the reactive elements, such as, bromine, iodine, fluorine and chlorine. These cables are extremely effective as there are no corrosive gases released. Irritation of eyes and the respiratory tract is massively reduced. Aggressive chemical compounds are also not formed with the extinguishing water resulting in no damage to the building or electrical installations caused due to corrosion.
The proportion of toxic gases is low. Dioxins are no longer emitted from burning cables. Halogen-free flame-retardant cables with improved performance in the event of fire are extremely effective in controlling the spreading of flames and smoke. This helps the escape and extinguishing routes for the fire brigade by hardly impeding dense smoke.
Fire survival cables
Most of the casualties in a fire outbreak are through congestion in the lungs due to toxic gases. Fire survival cables play a vital role on circuit integrity application. It is a must for any constructor to install the fire survival cables as they generate the lowest amount of acid gases that allows the employees to escape the situation without suffocation. These cables can also withstand low oxygen index, high smoke density and a temperature of up to 250 to 280 degree Celsius.
Proper attention must be paid to minimise fire loss by installing appropriate cable & connection technology. The constructors should make sure that the cables are as per the standards of BS 7846 & EN50228-7 (Pairs & Triads), which are thermo-setting insulated, armoured, fire-resistant cables of rated voltage 600/1000 V & 500 V (Pairs and Triads) having low emission of smoke and corrosive gases when affected by fire. The cables should serve the purpose of control, power and instrumentation applications as per the requirement.
Factories or manufacturing units cannot completely predict or prevent accidents, especially when it comes to fire outbreaks. All they can do is install proper preventive maintenance and instruments that gives the employees extra time to vacate in any such event of fire. On these lines, the above-mentioned cable & connection technology will help human life to come out safe without facing suffocation and losing consciousness in a fire effected area.