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:

  • 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.
  • Wise choices decrease fire risks
    October 2018, Spero Sensors & Instruments, This Week's Editor's Pick, Fire & Safety
    Fire safety at the workplace is a topic that is easily neglected and many businesses do not devote enough attention to it.
  • Apollo Test Set
    October 2018, Technoswitch, Products, Fire & Safety
    The new Apollo Test Set is a portable testing device, designed to assist commissioning and system maintenance engineers.
  • Soteria Dimension
    October 2018, Technoswitch, Products, Fire & Safety
    The new Soteria Dimension is a range of sleek, flat optical fire detectors for flush mounting, that provides architects, system designers, specifiers and installers with an alternative to traditional fire detection devices.
  • User responsibility for fire alarm systems
    October 2018, FDIA (Fire Detection Installers Association), Fire & Safety
    Once a fire alarm system has been properly designed, installed, commissioned and handed over to the user, there are certain responsibilities that the user needs to continuously fulfil.
  • Transformer fire protection solutions
    September 2018, Spero Sensors & Instruments, Fire & Safety
    Transformer fires are disruptive, dangerous and may cause loss of life due to the severity of the fire and the high incidence of explosions.
  • Technoswitch launches kitchen and vehicle fire suppression kits
    September 2018, Technoswitch, This Week's Editor's Pick, Fire & Safety, News, Products
    Technoswitch recently held a launch event at the FPA College in Boksburg to announce it had added the Rotarex FireDETEC range of pre-engineered fire detection and suppression systems to its product portfolio.
  • The tough keep going
    August 2018, Technews Publishing, Access Control & Identity Management, Fire & Safety, IT infrastructure
    There are problems the manufacturing industry has to face, but the good news is there are also success stories out there.
  • Wireless transportable multi-gas detectors
    August 2018, Spero Sensors & Instruments, Fire & Safety, Products
    Sperosens reduces the complications of gas detection by supplying the Oldham range of wireless multi-gas solutions, focusing on maximising performance, quality and reliability.
  • Fire document holder
    August 2018, Technoswitch, Fire & Safety, Products
    The new Fire Document Holder, designed and manufactured by Technoswitch, is the ideal way to store and protect all site-related fire documentation.
  • Fire protection for commercial kitchens
    August 2018, Technoswitch, Fire & Safety, Products
    The FireDETEC fire protection system is a complete, pre-engineered commercial kitchen fire suppression and detection system.

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.