Many safety professionals responsible for facilities with fuel-fired equipment exist within a culture of ignorance, misunderstandings and/or denial about the impact of an explosion or fire caused by the operation of equipment such as boilers, furnaces, ovens, dryers, etc.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Journal reports that hundreds of explosions happen every year resulting in millions of dollars in business interruption, facility damage, lawsuits, fines, litigation and lost market share. Conversely, smaller, but more frequent, production outages also cost millions in business interruption, supply chain delays, lost orders and competitiveness, but are often deemed to be culturally accepted as a general business practice.

Unfortunately, society and individual companies usually act only when some very large and tragic event occurs. Combustion equipment safety is critical to the daily operation of many facilities and the safety of employees. This presentation will help you understand how to protect your organization from combustion-related incidents involving fuel-fired equipment before you end up a headline.

This paper uses statistics from over 10,000 fuel-fired equipment inspections and tests to help readers weave through the basics of four combustion standards (NFPA 54, 85, 86 and ASME CSD-1) needed to dramatically reduce and/or eliminate fuel-fired factors and make safety, efficiency, reliability and continued competitiveness part of the corporate culture.

Just a Few Numbers

Many people believe that explosions, fires or outages from fuel-fired equipment only happen to others, as if they are immune (Exhibit 1). Only loss of life seems to make the 11 o'clock news. Any headlines soon fade or rarely garner the follow-up attention required to highlight the pitfalls of poorly maintained and operated equipment. Today's corporate public relations departments are also very good at shutting down the flow of information that may leak to media. Our experiences has been that little "poofs", "pops", bulging furnace walls or "pregnant boilers" are more prevalent than not and imply that incident headlines are only the tip of the iceberg.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) states that the major perils in operating automatically fired boilers are loss of water (low water), furnace explosion, overpressure, and over temperature. The principal causes of accidents to automatically fired boilers are lack of proper controls and safety devices, lack of adequate maintenance and complacency on the part of the operator due to long periods of trouble-free operation.

Actually, between 1991 and 2002, 23,338 boiler and pressure vessel accidents have killed 127 people and injured 720.i This statistic does not include unreported incidents or non-boiler/pressure vessel explosion and fire statistics (i.e. ovens, furnaces, parts washers, etc.).

Exhibit 1: Boiler Explosion

Moving beyond just boilers and pressure vessels, major explosions and fires in the US between 1990 and 2002 have cost over $13.7 billion in property damage alone. ii These figures do not include the costs of lawsuits, fines, litigation, supply chain delays, lost market share, stock devaluation and probably the most expensive, low morale. It is quite staggering to think about the true impact society absorbs with these safety and financial issues.

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