Don’t let poor maintenance let you down

Don’t let poor maintenance let you down

A back-up power supply, such as a generator set or genset, is critical to keep things going during loadshedding. However, it is vital that such equipment is maintained properly and serviced regularly to be able to cope with the outages.

Michael van Niekerk, ASP Fire’s CEO, warns that genset failure due to a lack of proper maintenance poses a significant business risk. But it isn’t only the downtime or damage to your asset that can come into play …

If an oil filter has not been screwed on tightly enough, for example, it can result in an oil leak. If oil sprays onto a hot manifold as a result, a fire will ignite.

Another issue is vegetation or combustible material encroaching on a genset, which can often be tucked away somewhere as an afterthought. The genset itself is a potential source of fire ignition due to the high temperatures of the manifold. If the genset is indoors, these temperatures can be considerable, especially if the ventilation is inadequate.

“The probability of something going wrong may be slim in the mind of the end user, but in the likelihood that it does, the consequences can be potentially disastrous and even fatal,” warns Van Niekerk. ASP Fire recommends an automatic fire-suppression system to protect all involved.

In terms of fixed fire-suppression systems, a range of options is available. Sprinklers are an obvious choice, but this measure depends on whether or not such a system has been installed already. If not, the cost can be excessive, as sufficient hydraulic capacity has to be guaranteed.

The next best option is a clean-gas fire-suppression system. “The problem with gensets and the heat they produce is that the rooms they are located in are normally ventilated, which compromises the integrity of the enclosure. If you discharge a gas system in this environment, it is therefore not possible to maintain the concentration of that gas for a sufficient period to suppress the fire. Therefore clean-gas systems are not ideal in these scenarios,” Van Niekerk explains.

The third option is a water- or foam-mist fire-suppression system that only uses a minimal quantity of water. It is also far more cost-effective than the clean gases themselves necessary to recharge the system. This suppresses a fire rapidly, cooling any remaining hot spots down to below the automatic ignition temperature.

A standalone water-mist fire-suppression system, with mechanical activation, should, however, be inspected monthly.

“It is all about risk mitigation, based on how integral the genset is to the business in question. While it is essential for financial service providers and hospitals to invest in the best systems possible, smaller end users also need to look at the impact of genset failure or fire on their businesses,” Van Niekerk points out.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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