If the Belt is on Fire

Belt Conveyor Safety

If the Belt is on Fire

A Guide to fire-retardant Conveyor Belts
Playing with fire!? - Belt conveyors are sophisticated equipment widely used in the transportation business. Most often, nevertheless, their function is of paramount importance for the plants they serve: If the belt conveyors fail, the plant (or port) might be paralysed, so their weaknesses should always be kept in mind.
(ed. WoMaMarcel - 27/7/2015)
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Although the test certificates are valid for several years, these large-scale tests present a huge and costly problem to manufacturers of rubber belting for above ground use because there is a much wider range of belt types. Such complex test methods have made it extremely difficult to develop improved levels of fire safety because if a belt sample fails the tests then the technicians have to go back to the drawing board to make further changes to the rubber compound and then embark on another round of expensive tests.

Apart from hindering development of fire resistant belting, it also means that it is very difficult to adequately test those belts that manufacturers claim reach specific levels of fire resistance. This is one of the reasons why there are so many end-users operating conveyors fitted with belts that provide totally inadequate levels of fire safety.

New CEN Fire Test Standards to be introduced

The problem has long been recognised by the CEN standards committee and over recent years they have been trying to find a solution. Following recent meetings attended by technical experts from all over Europe, the Committee European de Normalization will be introducing several positive changes in 2014.

Agreement has been reached on using and adapting tests already in existence for quality standards such as DIN and BS that will involve much smaller scale tests using much smaller equipment. This will mean that major manufacturers will be able to experiment and carry out testing in their own laboratories. Ironically, these new test methods will actually be even more demanding than the old, large-scale tests. Major insurance companies are already showing interest and are becoming involved in discussions. For them, and for all genuinely safety conscious organisations, this can only be very good news.

Don’t play with Fire

Although manufacturers and suppliers may be able to provide test certificates, in some cases that certificate may only relate to the belting that the manufacturer produced for test certification purposes. The actual belt delivered to site may well not be up to the required standard. For greater peace of mind we would suggest ordering an extra meter of belt and then have that piece of belt tested by an accredited testing authority or laboratory.
The price of not exercising caution simply cannot be calculated.

N.B. This technical feature article relates to conveyor belts that are used above ground.  For test methods and standards for conveyor belts used below ground please seek specific advice and guidance.

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