Conveyor Belt Fire Protection: Preventing a fast-spreading blaze

24 October 2023 in Commercial, Fire Protection

Conveyor Belt Fire Protection: Preventing a fast-spreading blaze

The Roadrunner has nothing on the most powerful industrial conveyor belts when it comes to covering distances fast. This makes conveyor belt fire protection a crucial industrial safety concern. Conveyor belt fire protection is essential to prevent the rapid spread of fires due to friction-generated heat or combustible materials being placed on belts in error. Learn how linear heat detection and conveyor belt sprinkler systems maximise safety.

What are the fire risks of conveyor belt systems?

Primary fire hazards in conveyor belt systems include:

Flammable belt materials

Conveyor belts themselves may ignite. This is a real risk in installations that do not use fire-retardant belt materials that come at a premium of up to 50% higher costs.

Combustible materials loaded onto belt conveyors in error

Human error is a major cause of fire in all industries. Belt conveyors may ignite because a worker inadvertently placed hot equipment or materials onto the system.

Friction due to belt system malfunction

Friction is one of the most common causes of conveyor belt fires. Seized rollers or overheated bearings may generate substantial friction or heat. This is a serious risk in explosive and inflammable environments.

Misaligned belts

When belt conveyors are not aligned properly, this may generate excessive friction as well as placing excess wear and tear on equipment.

How can you ensure reliable conveyor belt fire protection?

Reliable conveyor belt fire protection requires linear fire detection systems that monitor the long ranges belts typically cover in industrial applications. Detection systems work in tandem with conveyor belt sprinklers which are engineered to extinguish fire along the full installation range of the belt.

How do linear fire detection systems work for conveyor safety?

Linear heat detection (abbreviated LHD) uses a continuous length of wire or fibre optics containing heat-sensitive polymers to monitor temperatures over large distances. The advantage of a fibre optic system is that it may be configured for multiple different zones along a single length of cabling, thus allowing a higher degree of customisation and flexibility than traditional, non-linear ‘alarm plus smoke detector’ setups.

A linear heat-sensing cable may span up to ten kilometres and may be linked up to a management platform for real-time heat monitoring. This empowers lightning-fast response to any abnormal rise in temperature over a vast distance, for fast fire suppression and prevention. Linear heat detection is useful for conveyor belt fire protection because both carry things over large distances as quickly as possible. Belts carry goods or raw materials, and heat detection cables carry crucial temperature monitoring information.

How else can you prevent a conveyor belt fire besides early warning?

Besides the early warning system linear heat detection provides when connected to fire alarms and monitoring systems, you need the means to extinguish fires fast. This is where conveyor belt sprinkler systems add further fire safety.

How are conveyor belt sprinkler systems different from regular fire sprinkler systems?

Complete conveyor belt sprinkler systems are engineered to meet the many possible fire outbreak scenarios in industries such as mining and power distribution. Sprinkler systems for conveyors must consider stationary fires, moving belt fires and localised fires, as well as belt burn through and breakages due to heat and friction. A complete system helps to mitigate all fire risks through strategic placement of nozzles at high-risk points, such as directly over rollers or points where loads may have elevated temperatures.

How can you avoid conveyor fire breakouts?

There are several ways to avoid conveyor fires breaking out:

  1. Install crucial heat detection and conveyor belt sprinkler systems
    A comprehensive system provides both early warning and fire suppression.
  2. Ensure correct belt alignment
    Properly aligned belts are at less risk of wearing through or generating excessive friction and
    heat that may lead to fires.
  3. Conduct regular belt inspections

Maintenance and regular inspection are crucial for ensuring that conveyor belts, bearings
and other components are not overly worn or at higher risk of excessive heat generation.

  1. Remove accumulated combustible materials
    Combustible materials accumulating on conveyor belts are major fire hazards. Any non-
    essential materials that are potentially flammable should be removed regularly to ensure
    that flammable debris does not accumulate.
  2. Correct potential fire sources (such as seized rollers)
    Seized conveyor belt rollers may lead to fire as more friction (and thus heat) generates when
    the belt passes over the static roller. Seized rollers should be fixed as quickly as possible to
    prevent heat and static build-up that may lead to sparks and fire.

Do you need comprehensive industrial fire prevention and safety installation or inspection? Contact
ERF Group for a quote.

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