Les Littlewood, Sales Director of Albion Valves UK Ltd discusses how valve technology is taking a lead in industrial workplace safety, and explains how getting the basics right can help safeguard Britain’s workforce.
It is a well-known and sobering fact that due to the nature of the job in hand, industries such as building services, construction and manufacturing have one of the highest occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities.
Although there has been improvement in health and safety at work, statistics still reveal a huge cost to human life and quality of life, as well as financial implications for businesses in dealing with the consequences. Yet, more can be done to help further reduce the number of incidents by getting the basics right.
To help promote safer working environments, at Albion we urge specifiers and engineers to be vigilant and not to compromise on the products they are sourcing for industrial and building services applications, and always ensure they have the correct accreditations and are fit for purpose.
Paying attention to the basics makes for a safe and healthy workplace, which can in turn increase productivity, support engineering excellence and focus energy into meeting customer needs.
The majority of our distributors have customers operating in industrial and construction workplaces, where explosive atmospheres are commonplace. This includes environments where industrial processes may release flammable gases or vapours.
This is a potentially a dangerous environment on two levels; whereby explosions or fire can cause loss of life and serious injury as well as significant damage and poisonous gases can cause long-term respiratory problems for those in direct contact.
Albion has added a range of fire-safe, anti-static, stainless steel ball valves to its product portfolio, designed to withhold hazardous substances in the event of a fire around the valve.
Anti-static valves are suitable for installations within the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries, as well as a variety of other industrial processes dealing with oil, gas and other flammable media, where there is an increased risk of explosion if it leaked during a fire.
The anti-static device fitted on the valve, ensures that friction caused by the operation of the valve does not cause a build-up of static, which could potentially spark and have disastrous consequences.
The API 607 standard, which certifies the valves as fire-safe, looks at the performance of valves by establishing limits of acceptable leakage when they are exposed to defined fire conditions.
Valves that meet the API STD 607 requirements should allow enough time for the fire to be extinguished whilst still holding the pipeline media, to avoid fueling the fire further. Fire-safe valves are also required to operate once more after fire exposure, from the ‘open’ to the ‘closed’ position at a high pressure.
“We do the utmost to ensure that engineers and anyone working in potentially dangerous situations and using our products can do so with complete confidence. We are also aware that health and safety legislation and keeping up to date with new regulations can be a complicated and time-consuming process, which is why we have a dedicated quality team to ensure our products are all fit for purpose.”
Similarly, the ATEX certification mark is designed to minimize the risk of fire or explosion arising from dangerous substances in the workplace. Albion’s range of stainless steel valves is ATEX certified for use in potentially explosive environments, and guaranteed not to spark if they come into contact with a combustible foreign body.
The ATEX directive applies to electrical and mechanical equipment intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres including; mines, factories, sewage plants, biomass, oil and gas, corrosive metals, dusts and chemicals.
The ATEX directive also requires the traceability of products including valves and fitting to be ensured throughout the whole supply chain ensuring that manufacturers, authorized representatives, importers and distributors all guarantee that the product they place on the market complies with this directive.
Another major safety threat posed to engineers and industrial work staff is in environments with high-pressure systems operating above 0.5 bars. In this instance pipework, valves and fittings are required to be compliant with the Pressure Equipment Directive (PED) to ensure the equipment is able to withstand pressure and prevent system’s bursting.
A common and potentially lethal occurrence in this situation is when relief valves are specified to do the job of a safety valve. Both safety valves and pressure relief valves are used as the last safety device in a pressure system, however engineers and specifiers need to be mindful that requirements can vary significantly from system to system.
In applications where PED is applicable, it is mandatory to use safety valves with the appropriate approvals. If a valve without type test approval is installed there is no guarantee that required blow-off at 10% would be reached, which poses a big safety risk.
Albion’s range of safety valves is based on a traditional model; they have been improved to bring them up to date with modern valve design and performance. They come with a unique 2-piece spindle to ensure a safe, tamper-proof discharge, even if some form of external restraint has been applied, as well as an increased discharge capacity and a 5 Year market-leading warranty
The Gunmetal Safety Valve and the sister product the Gunmetal High Discharge Safety valve are both designed for use with steam, gas and liquids. The products are WRAS approved and can be also ATEX certified upon request, the valves can be operations in temperatures from -50°C to +195°C, with a maximum 16 bar pressure.
Safety valves are all either set, sealed and certified by the factory, or onsite at Albion on a test rig prior to dispatch. Each valve is laser etched with its own unique serial number to allow certification to be traced.
Working with gas is one of the most hazardous industrial occupations; in the UK natural gas is distributed through a 275,000km network of buried pipes to domestic, commercial and industrial users. Dangerous and illegal gas work carries high penalties, and careful network management and equipment procurement is of paramount importance in this field.
To help get the basics right Albion’s range of brass ball valves for gas applications is verified with industry standard EN331 from BSI (British Standards Institution) assuring products meet the optimum standards for quality and reliability and safety.
“It is important to realize that the liability for using a non-conforming product rests with the installer, which is why Albion recommends using a certified safety valve wherever possible and making safety a priority.”