Automation and robotics, Features, Safety events and incidents, Safety systems and solutions, Work health and safety

Safeguarding automation against a fire

fire suppression

The Muster fire suppression system is protecting autonomous assets on mine sites. 

As autonomous mining machinery continues its rise to prominence, companies are faced with the challenge of figuring out how to protect these expensive assets, such as in the event of a fire. 

In the absence of an on-board operator taking immediate action against an inferno, miners need certainty that their autonomous vehicles will be protected.  

That’s precisely the peace of mind that JSG Industrial Systems is looking to provide its customers through the Muster fire suppression system.

Muster fire suppression systems can be activated automatically, manually and, thanks to Muster’s remote activation device, remotely. The remote activation device allows a mine to trigger a fire suppression system from a distant control centre, making the technology well-suited to autonomous applications. 

“In the case of haul trucks, these machines run around on a site for 23 hours a day without an operator on board,” JSG Industrials national product sales manager Dale Sharpe told Safe to Work. “That can present a real problem when it comes to spotting fires, but more significantly when a fault in a machine’s fire suppression system occurs.”

To address this issue, the Muster fire suppression system employs a dual fire and fault alarm system. This means the system can automatically detect and suppress a fire on a machine, as well as detect faults in its own system.

The core of the technology is the Muster alarm panel, which monitors the integrity of the fire suppression system around the clock and automatically controls the activation of the suppression systems. 

“The alarm panel is the heart and brains of the system,” Sharpe said. “It’s got data-logging features that keep track of everything happening with the system, even unauthorised tampering.

“As soon as Muster detects a fault in the fire suppression system, it notifies the autonomous system, which in turn notifies somebody in the control centre of the fault. The person in the control centre can then pull that particular truck aside and send someone out to fix it. 

“In the event of a fire, the suppression system activates, then sends an alert to the control centre, which can then dispatch emergency crews.

“Muster has great synergy with autonomous vehicles thanks to the extra level of protection when it comes to fault-finding. In the event of a fire or system fault, Muster provides customers with the ability to intervene. 

“Without Muster technology, it might be five or 10 minutes before somebody actually notices a fire, or 23 hours down the line before somebody notices a fault in the fire suppression system.”

When it comes to autonomous mining equipment, Muster has applications on haul trucks, bulldozers, drill rigs, water carts and graders. 

In the case of drill rigs and dozers, where the operator keeps a strict eye on the machine via camera coverage due to the hazardous nature of the work, sites can particularly benefit from Muster’s remote activation device. 

“If the operator sees a fire start, they can press a button to remotely activate the fire system on that particular piece of equipment,” Sharpe said. “In other words, somebody sitting in Perth can push a button and the fire system 1400km away in the Pilbara can be discharged automatically.”

The Muster alarm panel and Muster remote activation device.

No two fires are the same; different fuels and environments call for different suppression solutions. Muster has a range of solutions, supporting mining-related applications. 

Muster’s foam-based suppression system is ideal for suppressing diesel-engine fires; the aerosol fire suppression system is best suited to electric motors and server rooms; and the impulse powder fire suppression system is able to rapidly knock down fire. Each Muster system can be configured as a standalone defence or in conjunction with another in a dual-agent system to cover multiple risk types on the same asset. 

JSG Industrial Solutions backs Muster and its customers with a national training capacity. 

“We work closely with our distributors and service partners to ensure customers are trained to use Muster, which creates an operator-level awareness,” Sharpe said.

“If any of our technicians and service partners are not readily available, preventive maintenance or fault-finding can be done at the operator level. This increases the serviceability of our equipment and machine availability as a result.”

Another tool in Muster’s kit is the diagnostic module, which helps with system maintainability. The module plugs into the Muster alarm panel, allowing users to download all the system information. 

“The diagnostic module can help with fault-finding, so you don’t necessarily have to have in-depth knowledge of the Muster system,” Sharpe said. “If there’s an issue with a system and no fire technician within 400km, the diagnostic module can tell an operator what’s happening and point them in the right direction. 

“That comes back to less downtime or more machine availability.”  

Visit JSG Industrial Solutions’ website for more information on Muster.

This feature also appears in the November-December issue of Safe to Work.

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