Understanding the Fire Triangle
Dust Safety Science reported 99 industrial factory fires/explosions in the United States in the first half of 2019.
Trying to keep up with fire safety regulations, understanding what can cause combustion, and what we can do to keep our factories and employees safe are all serious and sometimes overwhelming undertakings.
The Fire Triangle (or Fire Tetrahedron) breaks combustion down to its simplest form to allow us to better understand what combustion is and how it works. By having a full understanding of the basics, we can begin to better equip ourselves to avoid and (when necessary) deal with combustions that happen in our factory, in the safest manner possible.
The Fire Tetrahedron
Okay so what is it and how can it help us?
The fire triangle is often used as a basic form of fire safety training and looks at the dynamics of fire itself. By looking at and understanding this in more detail, it is much easier to grasp the need for, and details of, fundamental fire regulations…- Elitefire - Teaching Fire Safety
The Fire Triangle is composed of 3 elements - fuel, heat, and oxygen. Once they are all present, a chain of chemical reactions occurs and a fire starts. Let’s go over what each of these elements can consist of in a factory setting.
Fuel - is the material that actually burns. This can be any type of combustible material from wood in a woodworking factory to gases, liquids, plastics, rubber, paper, sugar, etc that are present in other types of factories across the world. These materials are characterized by their moisture content, size, shape, and quantity and they’ll determine how easily the fuel will burn and at what temperature.
Heat - is needed to begin the initial ignition of a fire as well as maintain and spread the fire. Heat removes all moisture from the nearby fuel source, warms the surrounding air, and preheats the fuel in its pathway which enables the fire to spread quicker and wider as time goes on. You can remove heat with substances that reduce the amount of heat available… The most common heat reducer used to suppress fires is water, however, that doesn’t always work.
Oxygen - is the last element needed to initiate the chemical chain reaction. In most cases, all that is necessary is the oxygen in the ambient air. Air contains about 21% oxygen, and most fires require at least 16% oxygen content to burn. If you can deprive or suffocate a fire of oxygen, it can be extinguished. Redzone - Wildfire 101
Why should we be aware of it in a factory?
Most manufacturing factories produce some type, if not multiple types of combustible dust when they are cutting & manufacturing their pieces.
Combustible dust, as the name eludes to, is made up of small particles of dust that can become highly explosive under certain conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Organization defines combustible dust as a solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape, or chemical composition, which presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations - Occupational Safety and Health Organization
How do we prevent it from happening?
Factory fires and explosions kill and injure many people and cause billions of dollars in damages each year. These events though are usually preventable according to Impact Fire Services, a full-service fire protection company headquartered in Texas. Impact Fire says there are 3 main keys to equip your factory and employees with the tools and knowledge to help prevent fires - performing an in-depth hazard assessment, investing in fire protection systems, and training our employees in fire prevention and safety.
Let’s face it, between all the fuel available in factories, expensive CNC machines with so many electrical panels, dust collection systems, huge fans, and motors, factories have many more hazards than your typical residential buildings do. It is important to get a professional involved to do a thorough assessment of ALL of the safety, fire, and life risks that are present in our factories. Additionally, it is also important to test the particular dust your materials are producing for their combustibility. By knowing what the risks are, we can better equip ourselves, our factories, and our employees with the tools and knowledge to eliminate these risks.
What if a fire still happens?
Unfortunately, all three sides of the fire triangle are usually present in a factory setting, so the potential for a fire is still there, even if we minimize the risks and everyone is properly trained and following all guidelines. This is why we need to have fire protection/suppression systems in place to minimize the damage and prevent a spark/small fire from becoming a huge event or even an explosion.
Fire suppression can range from spark detection systems, abort gates, backdraft dampers, fire extinguishers, and more. Make sure the fire suppression & protection systems you invest in satisfy all NFPA standards to keep your factory as safe as possible and are authorized by your Authority Having Jurisdiction. Your AHJ can be your city, local fire marshall, NFPA, OSHA and sometimes you have multiple, so do your research!… The sake of your employees and factory depends on you.
How can Ecogate help?
What can Ecogate do to help with fire protection?
Ecogate is the only on-demand ventilation control system on the market that can prove that it satisfies NFPA standard 664.
A properly designed, installed, and commissioned Ecogate control system always maintains the minimum transport velocities required in a ducting system for a specific dust material. Our smart systems monitor and report this data back to you in real-time so your peace of mind is assured.
To learn more about how Ecogate fulfills NFPA 664, feel free to reach out to me at any time!
Author: Daniela Petrescu