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Upholding Life Safety in Specialist Environments

Robert Head, our Specialist Product Business Manager, outlines best practice for duty-holders when addressing life safety in ‘hazardous’ areas.



In the wake of the hugely damaging fire at one of the world’s most culturally significant and iconic landmarks, Notre-Dame, the importance of fire safety has once again seen a resurgence in the national press. March this year also saw 78 people perish in a fire related blast at a chemical plant in China – injuring hundreds of others. Both of these tragic events now serve as a stark and unfortunate reminder of how devastating an out of control fire can truly be.


Due to the widespread incorporation of technology into the modern workplace, we now live in a time where there are more fire risks than ever before, especially in spaces where electrical systems and complex industrial processes are prevalent. It is the duty of those in charge of safety in these areas to recognise the increased risks and ensure that potential fire outbreaks are minimised with the incorporation of specialist equipment.


Some environments are more at risk from fire than others, for example areas which contain ‘hazardous’ materials. These explosive and highly combustible substances, commonplace in petrochemical, gas, oil and wood flour plants, will naturally increase the chance of a fire-related incident turning into a disaster.


Specialised life safety products, like those we produce at Hochiki Europe, can support duty holders in keeping these hazardous environments safe while also giving them greater peace of mind by reducing the risk of fire or explosions.


Intrinsically Safe


For a life safety device to be installed in these specialised areas, they should be classified as ‘intrinsically safe’ (IS). This means they are able to operate at extremely low voltages and so cannot produce any spark in the case of a short circuit, overheated component or power overload. Additionally, with intrinsically safe products, the Zener or Galvanic Isolator barriers between the safe and hazardous zones will limit the amount of electrical current traveling into any hazardous area.


Another safety measure for duty holders to consider is whether to install ‘explosion proof certified’ devices. Fitted with steel-alloy enclosures, these products will contain any sparks prohibiting any chance of wider ignition or explosion.


Third-Party Accreditations


Maintaining quality through testing and self-certification is important, but third-party certifications provide another layer of independent reliability. Various industry renowned accreditations are in operation across Europe by ATEX as well as globally by the IEC. Countries such as Switzerland, that are in Europe but not the EU, are also covered by bodies such as the IECEx. Ensuring that every life safety component meets these standards should be an utmost priority for any hazardous environment duty holder, as well as manufacturers of this equipment.


In specialist environments where safety is a 24-hour concern, duty managers should also consider using SIL capable products. This accreditation assesses the Safety Integrity Level of a complete life safety system by evaluating the potential risk of failure of each component device – making it ideal for petrochemical, nuclear and energy sectors. Each device will be awarded a rating between 1 and 4, although most SIL applications will request a SIL capability of 2 or more. For duty-holders, using SIL capable life safety products alongside SIL capable equipment will ensure virtually failproof protection.


At Hochiki Europe, we are proud to be accredited by a range of leading international bodies and we have acquired a Level 2 rating for all our SIL products.


Unique Environments


By achieving these independent globally-recognised assessments, our customers in some of the most important commercial sectors can be assured that they are benefiting from quality, ultra-reliable solutions.


In our increasingly industrialised society, with more electrical technology active than ever before, we require our duty holders to always be on the ball and ahead of the curve regarding fire safety.


Now, more than ever, the solutions going into specialist environments need to be failproof, dependable and highly accurate. At Hochiki Europe, we will continue to innovate and develop life safety products to exceed standards to help protect workforces and building occupants in every industry across the world.


To find out more about Hochiki Europe’s specialist ranges, click here to visit our I.S. page or click here to visit our SIL page.