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Wireless based monitoring system keeps plant workers safe

07 June 2015

WERMA and Total Protection - two Northamptonshire based companies - pool their expertise to improve the safety of operators at a South Wales chemical plant.

Total Protection provides specialist safety equipment and training, including portable gas detection systems and breathing equipment. WERMA is a leading designer and manufacturer of visual and audible signalling devices, including ATEX approved beacon/sounders for deployment in Zones 1, 2, 21 and 22 hazardous areas.

The two companies have collaborated on a number of process industry projects in the past, where their combined product ranges have been used to develop bespoke safety systems for plant operators with particularly difficult and demanding requirements – often requiring ATEX approval.

The operator of the South Wales plant - a global leader in the production of silicon-based products - had experienced an incident at another of its sites located outside of the UK, which prompted a review of procedures for entering/monitoring analyser houses where the risk of oxygen depletion poses a hazard to staff.

Existing procedures involving the use of personal, portable O2 monitors were deemed inadequate, with inconsistent monitoring of potentially dangerous conditions posing an unacceptable hazard to staff entering and working within the analyser houses. Essentially, the portable monitors only alerted users to low oxygen conditions whilst they were inside the analyser houses; moreover, not all operatives were diligent wearers of their personal monitors.

A more rigorous method of monitoring low oxygen conditions was deemed necessary, but there were a number of factors affecting the design of the monitoring system, not least being the need for ATEX approved equipment, as the site is Zone 1 classified. The plant operator also wanted the site to be monitored in three zones individually, and at two security offices. And as the analyser houses are distributed around the plant, a hard-wired configuration was neither logistically nor economically feasible.

The solution to this problem came in the form of WERMA’s new compact range of Ex approved LED beacons - the 729/728 series – which provide extremely bright permanent or flashing lights to signal a safe or unsafe condition. For this application, Total Protection assembled two of these beacons on a suitable mounting plate in a traffic light configuration, complete with oxygen sensor, fully pre-assembled and pre-wired for installation in the analyser houses.

In order to meet the client’s requirement for remote monitoring of the status of the analyser houses - bearing in mind its previous rejection of a hard-wired configuration - Total Protection combined the ATEX-approved traffic light and sensor assembly with a wireless transmission system. As an option, the system is also offered with additional hydrogen sensors. The entire job was designed, assembled and delivered within a 12-week time-frame.

Total Protection’s system has fully met the client’s objectives, and the use of wireless technology to transfer data reliably to a central control and monitoring station has been a significant factor in enabling the complete system to be installed quickly without need for costly and invasive onsite cable installation.

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