Understanding Fire and Gas Systems Increases Safety

How well do the people in your plant understand your fire and gas safety systems? This is an important question as the answer may affect their safety in the event of an incident.

Now I am not asking if your people are capable of designing a safety system. Such work must be left to professionals for obvious reasons. But at the same time, if most of the people trained to work in a potentially hazardous environment were to look at the red sensor mounted near a big flammable liquid storage tank, would they know what it is for?

This is not a rhetorical question, and the reasons why knowing the answer is important is the main topic of a recent article published at automation.com in November 2019, Understanding Fire and Gas Systems Increases Safety. Like a smoke detector at home, a fire and gas system, once installed, can easily fade into the background. When workers acquaint or reacquaint themselves with the critical roles provided by fire and gas systems, it improves overall safety. But how does might this work?


The article goes into greater detail, but think about how safety experts design systems in accordance with standards such as IEC 61511 and ANSI/ISA 84. They begin by analyzing the plant and considering what potential hazards might be present. Where there is crude oil and natural gas, there is potential for fire, but also the presence of toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide. You can come up with many other examples. Workers in those plants undergo a great deal of training about the plant environment and what they might encounter during an incident.

Plant safety systems reflect those realities in the selection of sensors and safety control systems. For the example, there must be a toxic gas sensor (Emerson’s Rosemount 928 Wireless Gas Monitor for the H2S) and flame detector (from the Rosemount 975 Flame Detector family selected to reflect the potential fuel sources available.), positioned strategically to give the greatest degree of protection. Again, the article goes into greater detail so give it a full reading.

People in the plant should know what those sensors are designed to detect. A trained and experienced worker should be able to point to one and say, “That’s for H2S, and the one over there is an infrared flame detector. If it is triggered, it will sound a horn and release fire suppressant foam through this area. We head for the exits and gather in our mustering area.”

Every time workers walk through the plant and look at those sensors, they should be reminded of what they are there for, and what hazards may exist just a few feet away. They can also watch for situations where there is potential for a false alarm, such as a welder doing work within sight of a flame detector, or a careless person leaving something in a place that obscures a flame sensor’s viewing area. These work practices are most effective when every individual understands the importance of those devices and the parts they play in keeping the plant, its workers, and the surrounding community safe.

You can find more information like this and meet with other people looking at the same kinds of situations in the Emerson Exchange365 community. It’s a place where you can communicate and exchange information with experts and peers in all sorts of industries around the world. Look for the Safety and Flame & Gas Groups and other specialty areas for suggestions and answers.