classic | mobile
Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook  Share via Twitter  Share via LinkedIn

Hi-Tech Security Solutions Business Directory
Residential Estate Security Handbook 2018

Are you firesafe?
September 2009, Fire & Safety

Mike Cronin, MD of Elquip Solutions believes it is time for clear guidance on the use of low fire-hazard products in this country.

“It is 20 years since the King’s Cross tragedy in London when fumes from melting fixtures and cables contributed significantly to the number of fatalities,” says Mike Cronin, MD of Elquip Solutions. “The UK rail industry has learned from this, and now has some of the most stringent specifications for low fire-hazard (LHF) products. Unfortunately, too many public buildings, passenger trains and building materials and tools in South Africa do not adhere to such high standards.”

Elquip Solutions is a local provider of electrical, automation, mechanical and consumable products; and the sole agent for Flexicon (UK) in South Africa, a manufacturer of LHF products.

In fairness to specifiers, Cronin adds, there is a large amount of confusion and manufacturers with their own vested interests sometimes muddy the waters even further. It is perhaps because of this, that standards are often watered down.

He continues: “We would always urge that the right material is selected for the right job. For example, Flexicon has PVC conduit in our range, which in the right application is perfectly acceptable. They would not, however, claim that it is a low fire-hazard product. Yet there have been arguments in favour of PVC systems in fire prevention. While these arguments about flame retardency are true, it does have significant problems if a fire has taken hold.”

According to Cronin, the halogens in PVC that help this flame retardency produce corrosive by-products such as hydrochloric acid. In addition, the smoke produced can cause 90% deterioration in light transmission after just five minutes.

“Many well-known local retailers are fitting cable, conduit and other fixtures in public buildings and the rail industry with little or no thought about the effects of a fire. This is because nobody polices fire protection for the specification of materials in a building, and there is no clear guidance on what should be fitted,” he says.

Cronin argues that lessons may be learned from the international rail industry and its plan for a worst case scenario. Clearly the priority is to minimise the impact of a serious fire.

Any cables or conduits used within public buildings should, as a minimum requirement, present no danger to the health of people or integrity of property through toxic gas emissions during a fire. The term halogen-free gives an indication of low smoke and low toxicity. It also rules out halogen acid gas emission – a fact that is of interest to insurers since acid smoke can destroy computer equipment and damage the structure of a building.

LFH materials should also be highly flame retardant to prevent a fire or limit its development if one does start.

“Again this can be tested by the Limiting Oxygen Index (LOI). The higher the percentage, the greater the flame retardency of the material. Oxygen present in normal air is 21%. Taking the global rail industry as a best practice, they demand an LOI of 28% for materials used in over ground rolling stock and 34% for underground passenger carriages,” Cronin advises.

Another test, UL 94 is an insurance underwriters’ standard with flammability classifications HB, VO, V1 and V2. HB allows horizontal burning up to a maximum speed and VO is highly flame retardant.

Finally, Cronin observes, smoke density is important because people need to be able to see in order to escape. Again, the UK rail and building industry leads the way in developing a standard – BS 6853 for fire precautions in the design and construction of passenger carrying trains and public buildings.

“If you are specifying low fire-hazard performance, you should make sure that all four properties, high flame retardency, low smoke, low toxicity and halogen-free can be proven.

“There is no point adopting a ‘pick and mix’ approach. Halogen-free does not assure low smoke and toxicity. Equally, a low smoke and fume product may not be self-extinguishing, let alone highly flame retardant. As an example both petrol and TNT can be described as LSOH.

“So if you are specifying product for a public building, tools or trains make sure that you define what Low Fire-Hazard performance really means so cable management issues are not confused. Perhaps it is time to follow the example of the UK rail industry and clearly define what low fire-hazard performance means when related to cable management.”

For more information contact Mike Cronin, managing director, Elquip Solutions, +27 (0)11 826 7117,

  Share via Twitter   Share via LinkedIn      

Further reading:

  • Ewers appointed as director at ZYTEQ
    March 2019, ZYTEQ Fire, News, Fire & Safety
    ZYTEQ Fire has announced the appointment of Terence Ewers as sales director responsible for sales and business development.
  • Benefits of a voice alarm system
    February 2019, FDIA (Fire Detection Installers Association), Fire & Safety
    Despite all of the evidence reporting the greatly increased response times and improved evacuation, installations of voice alarm systems are still relatively low.
  • Early warning smoke detection
    February 2019, Technoswitch, Fire & Safety
    Brett Birch, general manager at Technoswitch, discusses very early warning smoke detection systems.
  • Early warning in warehouses
    February 2019, Securiton, Fire & Safety
    Smoke aspiration technology offers a reliable early warning detection system for warehouses where it is often difficult to spot fires before they are out of control.
  • Aftercare centre upgraded
    February 2019, Fire & Safety
    Eaton Africa’s sponsorship of a vital fire safety system helped the Alta du Toit Centre in Bellville in revamping its out-dated and faulty fire alarm system.
  • Protecting quality in the cold
    February 2019, Technoswitch, Fire & Safety
    Vesda Aspirating Smoke Detection System (ASD) was deemed to be the most effective solution for securing a cold storage environment.
  • Equipment for improved fire protection
    February 2019, Centa Atlas Fire Security, Fire & Safety
    Many companies still rely on the old technologies still available in SA, while the rest of the world is developing better and more reliable fire protection equipment.
  • History meets the future
    February 2019, Bosch Building Technologies, Integrated Solutions, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Access Control & Identity Management, Fire & Safety
    A networked solution from Bosch ensures a high standard of security in Dresden’s Palace of Culture.
  • LEAKalarm water leak detection system
    February 2019, News, Fire & Safety
    Hochiki Europe has brought an innovative new moisture detection system to the market, allowing building owners to identify leaks quickly and minimise the risk of water damage to their properties.
  • Hospital adopts integrated solution
    November 2018, Bosch Building Technologies, Access Control & Identity Management, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Fire & Safety, Integrated Solutions, Healthcare (Industry)
    Adana sets the standard for patient safety in a system marked by low overall cost of ownership, maintenance costs, and failure rate.
  • Thermal deep learning bullet cameras
    November 2018, Hikvision South Africa, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, Fire & Safety, Products
    Hikvision has released updated versions of its thermal deep learning bullet cameras, which will bring enhanced capabilities to perimeter security, including advanced fire detection technology.
  • Fire protection for your unique risks
    November 2018, Spero Sensors & Instruments, Fire & Safety, Products
    Risk analysis is the first phase in choosing the best fire prevention solution for your company.

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory (HSBD)

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual
    Mobile | Classic

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.