Don’t duct the safety question

It is vital for a power facility to specify and install a bespoke and compliant heating, ventilation and air conditioning solution, writes Ewing Thomson

The ventilation and ductwork system which controls the flow of air entering and leaving a power generation facility can ensure control and containment for atmosphere-sensitive areas, providing a high level of safety for all employees.

However, despite ventilation solutions being an integral part of the quality, performance and safety with a power generation site, they are sometimes overlooked by the industry. All ventilation and containment systems should be given significant consideration prior to installation, particularly in relation to quality, performance and safety at all stages of design, manufacture and commissioning.

Also, when specifying ventilation in power generation facilities, safety cannot be considered as a ‘one size fits all’ option. Every project is not only diverse but has its own set of often unique characteristics.

One of the only proven ways to ensure that quality and safety standards for ventilation solutions are not only met but surpassed is by using a series of advanced manufacturing and service procedures throughout the project, with numerous review and validation stages, alongside a programme of performance analysis provided by a turnkey ventilation solutions provider.

Ventilation solutions are sometimes overlooked
Ventilation solutions are sometimes overlooked
Credit: Hargreaves Ductwork

Within the power generation sector, the most important safety aspect of a ventilation solution is welding, which lies at the heart of providing a quality manufactured solution. It may be assumed that the most important factor of the ventilation solution is design and materials, but in fact it is the integrity of the welding process, which will determine how the system will perform throughout its lifetime. With most power generation sites being long-term projects, the lifecycle of the ductwork must be significant.

It is important to check with any ventilation supplier that all the company’s welding processes are controlled through qualified welding procedure specifications (WPS), in accordance with BS-EN-ISO-15609-1 and BS-EN-ISO-15614-1, witnessed and certified by a UKAS-accredited test body. The supplier must also be able to prove that each welder working on a power generation site is able to demonstrate an ability to comply with a WPS through qualification in accordance with BS-EN-ISO-9606-1.

To provide a safe ventilation solution, it’s not just the welding process and welder that need to be compliant. Within each stage of the manufacturing process, lifetime records will be recorded by named senior members of staff, which include raw material traceability, welding inspection, testing and completions.

After these have been approved, they should be passed to the contractor. A further action prior to the installation process should see power facilities provided with reports on feasibility, concept, design and safety processes alongside a relevant library of Building Information Modelling (BIM) maps and components.

A proven track record

Any company designing, manufacturing or installing ventilation into the potentially hazardous power generation sector needs to have a detailed understanding of the importance of ventilation systems as a factor in containing and controlling harmful chemicals or fumes produced.

As a baseline measure, power generation facilities should ensure the ventilation supplier has a proven track record of compliance within the sector, including significant knowledge on all the latest industry safety regulations and procedures to follow both on- and off-site.

In order to assist in the ventilation specification process, it is important to rely on having highly skilled, competent and experienced staff who understand the specific project requirements, national codes, standards and specifications in both the manufacture and installation processes for the power generation sector.

Throughout the course of the project and even after its completion, named senior staff should be assigned to the facility, and in some specialist cases, as seen in the nuclear sector, a dedicated team of engineers can be on-site if required, managing the ventilation needs of the project.

Fire safety

The potential for fire hazards within the power generation sector is well known, but what might not be recognized is that the ventilation ductwork system manages the spread of fire and reduces the level of smoke within a safe, contained area.

There is currently a host of specialist ranges of fire-resistant ductwork designed, manufactured and engineered to meet the need for the safe removal of smoke and other products of combustion, minimizing the risk of a fire becoming widespread across a power generation facility.

When specifying a ventilation solution within the power generation sector, it is critical that everyone involved in the design, procurement and installation of fire-resistant ductwork systems are aware of the requirements of the Construction Product Regulations (CPR) and specify solutions which are CE marked. On 1 July 2013, CE marking for all construction products covered by a harmonized European standard or conforming to a European Technical Assessment became mandatory through the CPR and, for smoke control ductwork, CE marking became mandatory on the same date in 2014.

Within the manufacturing process for smoke control ductwork, three tests must be carried out that comply with BS EN 1366-1:2014 and BS EN 1366-8:2004. The legislation requires ductwork to be tested vertically and horizontally alongside procedures carried out on a third piece of ventilation, which provides protection against the spread of smoke and fire to different sections of a building. Supplying the results of these stringent tests to customers is the only way to guarantee the safety of fire systems.

As with standard ventilation solutions, it is critical that all those involved in the design, procurement and installation of fire-resistant systems are aware of the CPR requirements, ensuring CE marked products are specified and procured. Quality ventilation system manufacturers will have all their products CE marked in line with the ISO 9001 quality systems, which ensures traceability of fabrication and materials to underpin CE marking.

In all industries, minimizing the risk to employees’ health and safety is of paramount importance. Ventilation can often be overlooked; however, the role it plays within the power generation industry cannot be underestimated.

It is vital that facilities are provided with a high level of safety and compliance from ventilation and ductwork systems.

Ewing Thomson is business development director of Hargreaves Ductwork, a provider of bespoke HVAC solutions. Hargreaves’ portfolio includes the Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre, Sellafield, and Wembley Stadium.

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