The dry season is upon us, which means the threat of fire is greater. It is incumbent on all of us to be more diligent in our daily efforts to protect our employees, equipment, and the environment. While the threat of fire varies across the country, we must take the time to acquaint ourselves and our employees with the specific requirements set forth by our states regarding fire prevention and fire watches. In the woods, fire danger is greatest while we are present and actively working.
Monthly safety meetings (required by OSHA) should address fire prevention, firefighting equipment, and firefighting methods. Employees on site that are versed in the use of all firefighting equipment are the best first responders. Site-specific safety plans should include closest fire station contact numbers, GPS coordinates to provide to emergency responders, and an employee reaction plan. Firefighting is dangerous and employees should only attempt to fight a fire if there is minimal danger to personal safety.
Clean and Maintain Equipment to Minimize Fire Threats
The site should be kept clean and free of debris and used fluid containers. Equipment should be maintained and monitored throughout the day and for at least 30 minutes after shutdown to provide adequate cool down. Daily equipment inspections reduce the potential for breakdowns and fires.
To effectively locate and identify potential fire hazards within logging equipment, one must have a basic understanding of fire. Fuel, heat, oxygen, and an uninhibited chemical chain reaction are required for fire to occur. The elimination and control of any of these elements results in the prevention, control, or extinguishment of a fire. The goal of your safety programs is to eliminate and control the elements before they can be brought together.
Hydraulic fluids and diesel fuel are under pressure and static when machines are in operation. The pressurized fuel lines present the greatest fire hazard because the slightest leak can result in atomizing the fluid, thus reducing its ignition temperature and making it much more likely to ignite when exposed to a hot surface. The static side or return side of the system mainly adds fluid volume as the lines are compromised in a fire situation. Procedures must be implemented to ensure that the hydraulic lines, fuel lines, fittings, and components are inspected for leaks, wear spots, bulges, and signs of potential failure. Locating and identifying a potential problem is only the starting point.
Best practices, safety guidelines, and procedures must place any piece of equipment found to be leaking out of service until the problem is fixed. An identified leak allowed to continue without corrective action dangerously increases the likelihood of further damage to the equipment, or worse, a fire.
Rubber and plastics in the machine serve as coverings and coatings for electrical wiring, hoses, and support structures. While not a significant concern as the first source to be ignited, their deterioration increases the potential release of fuel and fluid hazards by weakening the integrity of the exterior jackets of the hoses and wires. Repair or replace any worn areas in these materials as soon as possible. Immediately repair worn areas on electrical wiring runs and battery cables to prevent them from developing into ignition hazards.
Engine compartments are debris collectors due to airflow requirements and design. For the most part, debris collects in all areas of the machine, providing fuel for a fire. Remove debris in the belly on a regular basis. The best practice is to remove all debris from the belly pans on a weekly basis. Inspect electrical wiring throughout the machine for wear and tear. Repair or replace any area on an electrical wire that is worn or bare. Bare spots and worn areas present an increased potential of electrical short as wiring meets each other or metal surfaces.
Engine surface areas present a potential ignition hazard too. The primary concern is to keep debris from collecting on flat areas and eliminating the potential of atomized fluids being sprayed by following best practices and locating and eliminating leaks immediately.
Turbo chargers and manifolds present the greatest ignition hazard from direct heat. These areas of the machine can produce temperatures in excess of 600 degrees. Keep the manifold and turbo charger free and clear of debris. Inspect these areas daily before startup. Friction heat can occur when moving parts become dry or fail. Proper maintenance and the application of grease as recommended by the manufacturers can greatly reduce risk of fire.
As mentioned throughout this article, best practices are to inspect, identify, and eliminate potential leaks, weak spots, and bulges in pressurized lines immediately. Good practices, training, and diligence in the woods can help you be prepared in the event of an emergency. Preparation ensures that you will have all of the tools necessary to complete your jobs safely and without incident.
Reprinted with permission of Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc.