An industrial explosion kills six in Michigan, another kills four in Virginia, and the list goes on. These are only two very tragic, recent national headlines. The November 2000 National Fire Protection Association Journal (NFPA), reported that catastrophic fires and explosions cost industry more than $2 billion in 1999. This made 1999 one of the worst years for industrial fire safety in recorded history. These statistics say nothing of the thousands of smaller events that occur and go unrecorded such as boiler fires, process oven failures, and the burns and injuries from these events. Unfortunately, society and individual companies usually act on these issues only when some very large and tragic event occurs. This paper hopes to provide a means of encouraging combustion equipment safety action at your facility before it's too late. I hope to raise your awareness about this area of safety that few people know about simply because it is complicated and misunderstood. Combustion equipment safety is critical to the daily operation of all facilities and the safety of every employee. This paper will help you understand how to protect your employees from combustion-related incidents involving fuel-fired equipment, (boilers, ovens, pressure vessels), before you end up a headline.
For the non-combustion person, this paper reviews basic gas train safety controls and concepts and provides an understanding of the most common problems we have found through our inspections of more than 2,000 gas trains, the training of more than 1,000 skilled trades people, and the development of corporate combustion equipment safety programs for some of the world's largest companies.
Most facilities do not have personnel properly trained in combustion equipment maintenance, start-up or shutdown procedures, and/or equipment operations. Most sites also do not follow proper interlock and safety testing guidelines even though they are mandated by law. Boiler safety laws passed by a number of states hoped to help this. Boiler inspections are mandated to be carried out in states and municipalities that have boiler safety laws. These are called jurisdictional inspections. In most states these laws call for inspecting, but not testing, only the pressure vessel part of each boiler system. In 26 states ASME CSD-1 (American Society For Mechanical Engineers) codes have been adopted that mandate actual operational combustion safety systems training. In these states jurisdictional inspectors ask to see evidence of this gas train and safety interlock testing. However, it is beyond their work scope to do any of this testing.