The manufacturing industry faces constant challenges in the areas of innovation, productivity and global cost competition. The field is fraught with changing markets and uncertainties such as price stability, demand and material expenditures. For many manufacturers, keeping atop this ever-morphing landscape is a full-time job in itself. Is it any wonder then, that some of the most basic of protections can go unattended? Namely, fireproofing. Here, we take a look at the different fireproofing methods which can save time, money and most importantly, lives.
Fire is a perpetual risk in Australia, as our extreme temperatures and often dry landscapes lend themselves to the threat of ignition. Fire is responsible for around 100 deaths and up to 3,000 injuries every year in our country, and the costs associated with fighting, preventing, and recovering from fires is significant. In the manufacturing industry, your machinery is one of your biggest investments, and their performance (or lack thereof) can make or break the business.
Protecting machinery and structures against fire involves a little more than a call to the fire department in the event of an emergency. There are several options for protecting both your equipment and your premises against fire, thus preventing damage and the threat to your staff.
SFRM or Spray-applied fire resistive material
Fireproofing spray is perhaps the foremost method of protecting both equipment and structures from the threat of fire. SFRM is applied directly to steel, wood, or other materials in order to heighten their resistance to the heat of fire. When applied to steel, SFRM effectively protects the covered areas from heat and prevents the steel from buckling, softening and eventually succumbing to the intense heat of a fire.
Sufficient thickness is integral to the efficacy of SFRM, as it must provide adequate insulation from heat. SFRM should be tested by a professional once applied, to ensure that it meets the relevant standards.
These are paint-like coatings which expand by up to 100 times when affected by heat, thus insulating the material which they are applied to. Their expansion results in a loss of density over a large area, which protects the material beneath from the high temperature of fire, for long enough to either extinguish the fire or allow for evacuation. Available in both soft and hard char varieties, these coatings are a popular choice for passive fire prevention due to their relative attractiveness and versatility. They can be used in a decorative way, applied as a finish to structural steel, for example.
Once applied, the finish may be rough and orange peel-like in appearance. For those who are worried about aesthetics, the material can be sanded or sand-blasted to achieve a smoother finish.
Rigid board fireproofing
These boards can be installed quite quickly, and are often applied when steel structures are being built. They can be retrofitted, however, if they were not installed initially upon construction of your factory or warehouse. Rigid boards are not only an effective way to halt the progression of fires, but also protect against pests, as well as offering a degree of soundproofing. Generally resistant to moisture, they are a versatile fire protection method.
Flexible blanket systems
Fire-resistant blankets can be applied to a range of structures, machinery, wiring and other manufacturing environments in order to quickly and flexibly protect from fire. Fire protection systems from Unifrax use a mixture of calcium, magnesium and silicate to manufacture their fireproofing blankets.
“Unifrax’s proprietary fibre spinning technology combined with mechanical needling of the fibres eliminates the need for binders in the product. This results in a material with high tensile strength and superior thermal and acoustical properties. FyreWrap Blanket is chemically stable and its thermal properties are unaffected after exposure to water immersion or high humidity.”
Liquid convection cooling
This internal method of cooling helps to keep the structural integrity of steel intact by maintaining its internal temperature, thus avoiding softening of the steel under the extreme temperatures of fire. It can be applied to hollow, structural materials.
Even factories with the best WH&S practices and policies, accidents can happen. A little forward-planning and disaster-proofing can save more than just a call to the fire department. It could save lives.