The competitive nature of the free market places great pressure on the fire industry to deliver systems which minimally comply with, rather than exceed, the regulations. Too often fire protection is seen as a cost - not a vital investment for business continuity.
In the event of downtime or shutdown to fire, there could be catastrophic effects to high value assets, such as critical mining infrastructure. The risk far exceeds the risk of choosing minimal compliance, instead of advanced real-time monitoring systems. The cost or damage to reputational integrity as a result of this downtime far exceeds the cost of integrating a real-time monitoring system.
Fire safety is still an “ungoverned space”
In terms of fire extinguishing systems there exist 2 broad categories: sprinkler systems and liquefied gaseous systems such a clean agents, FM-200®, Novec™1230, CO2. The former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause greater damage given its physical pressures. Regulations require that the extinguishing agent stored in cylinders must be checked annually. The traditional method requires turning off the system, dismantling, and weighing each cylinder. Thorough testing can take hours and several qualified, trained personnel.
Anecdotes of bad practice
These issues risk the integrity of mining operations, because in the event of fire, there may be insufficient agent to extinguish it. For such safety critical operations, these systems should be permanently monitored. Yet they remain unsupervised and unmonitored 364 days a year until their annual certification check.
Industry trend to govern “the ungoverned space”
Safety is becoming recognised as an area which must no longer be overlooked. The industry is beginning to opt for more regular inspections and even continuous 365 day monitoring. The ability to monitor autonomously, with remote diagnostics and remote relay which can provide an alarm to the Fire Safety Officer or Facilities Manager, provides confidence in the integrity of the system. Minimising the risk of fire in the long run can improve business continuity, save downtime and also the potential costly pay-out which fire damage entails.
Case Study: Zambian Copper Mine switches to Ultrasonic Technology
One company who researched the market to find an easier, accurate and more efficient method for inspecting their fire system is a copper mining project in Zambia. This well established, growing mining company annually produces hundreds of thousands of tonnes of copper worldwide. Their Head of Instrumentation discovered an innovative method: Portalevel® ultrasonic technology. Portalevel® makes servicing quicker and requires just one person to identify the liquid level of agent inside the cylinders. There is no need to turn off or dismantle the system. By testing in situ, the integrity of the system is maintained and there is no increased risk to people or facility by shutting down the system for the duration of maintenance checks.
Innovation offers Smart Solutions
New Safesite™ technologies offer great opportunity to the mining industry - enabling confidence that the fire system is safeguarded. For example:
We are committed to “Safety First”: going above and beyond regulatory compliance, whilst minimising time and cost. Science and R&D are at our core. Our Safesite™ and Safeship™ technologies deliver solutions to critical infrastructure at sea and on land. As the world changes, so must our industry integrate technology, to provide a bulwark against minimal, even flagrant, disregard of standards, by creating standards which all can understand and apply. The “white heat” of technology shines as a beacon of hope to our industry and customers: to engage in better monitoring as an integrated and essential element to their business activity.