Factory-installed fire suppression systems give the end-user the confidence of effective fire protection in the event of an accident. A fire suppression system that has been designed in the collaboration between Johnson Controls and a vehicle OEM is the best possible fire suppression system for fire protection and machine reliability.
‘Cost cutting’ is a buzzword in the contemporary mining environment, with businesses hell-bent on saving a pretty penny. Presently, purchasing vehicles with factory-installed fire suppression systems, which, on the face of it, cost slightly more, may not appeal to some mine operators. Instead, they may prefer buying a vehicle and engaging a fire suppression company to do the installation.
Indeed, cost-containment ensures the long-term sustainability of a business, not least in tough trading conditions. However, John Swinton, Head of Sales Ansul Vehicle Systems, a Johnson Controls specialist for the European and African regions, advises mine operators to think twice about cost-cutting decisions in their safety programmes. In particular, he says, a cost-cutting mind-set can have unintended consequences when applied, without due diligence, to mining vehicle fire suppression, especially relating to decisions governing equipment installation.
Self-installation: an ‘affordable’ but risky game
Self-installation may appear to be an affordable option, in the short-term. Nonetheless, what may be ignored is that it may not always have the desired outcome in the long-term. Given that there is a third party tampering with a vehicle’s integrity without the OEM’s consent or input, there is always the high risk of a fire suppression system, either not working properly or not working at all. Eventually, this may expose the life of a vehicle operator to the high risk of a fatality.
The efficacy of factory-installed fire suppression
So, considering that fire suppression systems should provide maximum protection to the vehicle operator during a fire accident, there should be no margin for error in installation. That is why factory-installed fire suppression systems give the end-user the confidence of effective fire protection in the event of an accident, says Swinton. He cites critical steps that enhance the integrity of factory-installed fire suppression system and the attendant advantages bring to the end-user.
Critical steps in factory-installation
The incorporation of a fire suppression system in the design of a vehicle requires precision. Thorough groundwork goes into the installation process, with every stage carefully examined. Swinton underlines a number of critical areas that are taken into consideration in installation.
- Formal fire risk assessment and retaining product integrity
Swinton says, “The primary consideration is of course the fire risk which we appraise and record through a formal Fire Risk Assessment. This process is carried out alongside the OEM to ensure that all the knowledge of both parties is used to maximise the effectiveness of the final system design.”
He continues, “Secondly, we must consider the integration of the system onto the vehicle without hindering the function or integrity of the vehicle and the fire suppression system itself.”
These two aims mean that a fire suppression system that has been designed in the collaboration between Johnson Controls and a vehicle OEM is the best possible fire suppression system for fire protection and machine reliability, he infers.
- Third party approval
After installation, a fire suppression system has to undergo rigorous testing to establish whether or not it can perform optimally when a vehicle catches fire. Therefore, an independent Third Party Approval is vital to ensure that the fire suppression system has been designed to meet the rigors of the environment for its intended use, emphasises Swinton.
“Third party approvals such as Factory Mutual FM5970 – Standard for Heavy Duty Mobile Equipment, and Australian AS5062 – Australian Standard for Fire protection on mobile and transportable equipment have numerous tests that equipment must be subjected to obtain approval.
These tests include but are not limited to: long term leakage tests, high and low temperature leakage test, cylinder hydrostatic integrity, shock and vibration, corrosion (salt spray), high temperature exposure, plastics aging, UV and exposure testing, gravel bombardment, Ingress Protection (IP) testing and for suppression hardware, fire performance testing.
“Electronics are subjected to electrical device and circuit compatibility, reverse polarity, electrostatic discharge, electromagnetic field immunity, immunity to conducted disturbances, transient immunity, surge immunity, and load dump transient testing.
“ Electronics are also subjected all the same environmental conditions testing as suppression hardware listed above in addition to system operational (functional) test. The test levels used are established by globally recognised standards such as ISO, UN, UL and NFPA Standards,” he explains.
Advantages of factory-installed suppression
From a fire suppression company’s standpoint, Swinton states that factory-installed fire suppression systems in vehicles have clear advantages. “The input of product knowledge from the OEM helps refine the system. The possibility to adapt the vehicle at the design stage ensures that system components are installed without compromising protection. We are always confident that the system and vehicle integrity will not be affected in any way.”
Value over cost
Evidently, when procurement decisions on vehicle fire suppression systems are being made in board rooms of mining companies, the first thought should not be: “How much will we pay for it?”, but, “How much value will we get from it? As they focus on the bigger picture of enhancing safety mining, mine operators should not be distracted by the smaller detail of cost-saving.