Tag: Fire Safety

Fire safety in the longest tunnel on Earth

The world’s longest tunnel under the Swiss Alps is set to open for public in 2016. Gotthard Base Tunnel will allow 200 to 250 trains per day moving with the speed of up to 250km/h. According to BBC, it’s expected to revolutionize transport across Europe, providing a high-speed link connecting all corners of the continent.

With the tunnels and shafts extending 151.84 km long, the question of safety comes to mind first. However, the tunnel is equipped with a number of outstanding safety features…  Read More

The DARPA fire suppression wand (magic not included)

At Field ID, we’re crazy about new technology, innovation in both hardware and software, and how it can all come together for safety management. Given its importance to overall safety, fire safety management is clearly very important to many of our users. So when I stumbled on a DARPA project fire suppression using a “magical” wand, I was so impressed had to share it.

It’s not really magic. But breakthroughs in science can be just as impressive, and they can create the illusion of magic. This video of the technology in action is a perfect example of what I mean.



Here’s the background. The DARPA Instant Fire Suppression (IFS) program, a U.S. military initiative, sought to establish the feasibility of a flame-suppression system based on destabilization of flame plasma with electromagnetic fields and acoustics techniques. The DARPA research team at Harvard University has recently demonstrated suppression of small methane and related fuel fires by using a hand-held electrode, or wand. TIME Magazine named DARPA’s fire suppression technology among the 50 best inventions of 2011.

Many of today’s fire suppression technologies are decades old and focus largely on disrupting the chemical reactions involved in combustion by spraying water, foams or other chemicals on the flames. They can also cause damage to valuable property, environmental toxicity and have limited effectiveness for some types of fire. All existing suppressants are composed of matter and must be physically delivered and dispersed throughout the fire. This limits the rate at which fires can be extinguished and the ability to combat fires in confined spaces or behind obstacles.

But DARPA’s approach is truly novel. One day, this new approach could eventually make its way to commercial and residential use. Can you imagine using a wand to deal with small to large scale fires and eliminating certain problems such as fire extinguisher size or distance to a fire hydrant? It may be possible in the future, but for now this technology is in its early stages.

According to Matthew Goodman, DARPA program manager: “We successfully suppressed small flames and limited re-ignition of those flames, as well as exhibited the ability to bend flames. These effects, to date are very local—scaling is a challenge that remains to be overcome. We’ve made scientific breakthroughs in our understanding and quantification of the interaction between electromagnetic and acoustic waves with flame plasma.”

Technology is evolving every day, and so is Field ID. Personally, I can’t wait for the day that the first “fire suppression wand” gets entered into our system for inspection or safety audits.

Fire retardant for safety… or for flavour?

If you’re performing safety inspections on fire extinguishers, you probably aren’t too concerned with how a fire retardant tastes. But many people are exposed to the flavour a lot more than they realize.

According to recent news reports, some soft drink manufacturers continue to brew and sell beverages that contain trace amounts of BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil) in citrus-flavoured soft drinks to help natural fat-soluble citrus flavours stay suspended in the drink. BVO is an emulsifier, mainly used to stabilize oil and water in liquids so that they don’t separate. BVO has been used by the soft drink industry since 1931.

So what’s the safety issue? Well, BVO is patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant and banned for use in food products across Europe and Japan. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set a “safe” limit for BVO way back in the 1970s. Brominated vegetable oil is considered safe by FDA for use as a flavoring adjuvant and in fruit-flavored beverages based on a large margin of safety between the expected human exposure from its use and the highest no-observed-adverse effect levels from several long-term animal studies that were conducted on this substance.

Recently, this issue received renewed attention from concerned groups in North America. Some reports say overexposure to BVO may contribute to health problems or symptoms such as skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders.

Fire retardant, without a doubt, is a useful substance in the safety world. Many Field ID customers use inspection software to track and inspect fire extinguishers on factory floors or placed in areas with machinery. Field ID can be tailored to perform inspections on extinguishers and allow users to set a re-occuring schedule on when hydrotastic tests must be made, keep historical logs of the completed events (tracking for passes and failures), and many of our users manage fire safety on a daily or weekly basis. Many people even have one in their kitchen.

But while fire extinguishers save lives, you can’t say the same of soft drinks. There shouldn’t be a need to continue using this chemical in our food and drink. The next time you’re considering a soft drink, you may want to give it a “fail” instead of a “pass” – at least when it comes to health and safety.

218 School and Hospital Fire Inspections are Required in Nova Scotia

This is truly an example where modernizing inspections and safety compliance management can really make a difference.  We discussed in a previous blog post how fire inspections weren’t being conducted in Nova Scotia.  The Department of Labour recently reported that 218 schools and hospitals (17 hospitals and 201 schools) had outstanding inspections.  The department released the list just last Thursday.

The province stated it is going to carry out the fire inspections on the hospitals within 6 months, and 131 of the schools over the next year.  The remainder would be inspected in the following year!  The report also stated, “The department is realigning resources and in the process of engaging additional staff to allow for a focused approach to these buildings.”

The department is already having a hard time coping with all the fire inspections and all they are doing is trying to throw additional resources at the problem.  If we can learn anything from software development, you can’t just throw resources and expect the progress of your work to scale up linearly.  Ultimately, quality suffers.

The department should find more efficient ways to conduct and schedule inspections, as well as store the safety documents properly.  Essentially what they are doing is finding a short term solution.  They should look at the bigger picture and realize they really need to modernize their process so this doesn’t happen again.

source: Canadian Press

Safety in Nova Scotia being Compromised Due to Lack of Fire Inspections

Confusion in the roles and responsibilities at the Nova Scotia fire marshal’s office could have put the public at risk because fire safety inspections are not being done as required by the Fire Safety Act. Only five of 56 municipalities have been actively reviewed for compliance with the Act and of those five, none had completed all of the required inspections. In fact, one municipality did none.

A lack of leadership within the department, as well as a lack of follow through by some employees has led to deficiencies in school inspections and hospital inspections and life safety in general. There is currently no database or list of which inspections are not completed, which are completed, which are compliant and which are not. In addition, many of the deputy fire marshals are not keeping up with their paperwork. They are required to provide monthly activity reports which provide detail into the work they have done. Only three of the 8 deputies provided reports for the 2009-2010 time period.

Of the required inspections last fall, only 53% were completed. The law requires that schools be evaluated each year for fire safety, but the municipality has not done so, stating that because the public schools are owned by the province, it is not the municipality’s job to do the inspection. The fire marshal’s job is the enforcement of the Fire Safety Act and the adherence to it.

Change is on the horizon, as a project director has developed a plan for recommendations for improvement and has drafted an inventory of buildings that still need to be inspected. The office has also implemented daily and monthly reporting protocol. This is a perfect example where technology can really help.  Inspection software can definitely be used to automate more of the compliance and paperwork to bring this department up to speed.  Hopefully we’ll see some improvements soon!

source: Canadian Press

Barbecue Safety

As spring time floats us by and April showers are in the past the next natural step in the earth’s rotation around the sun is the summer solstice. As the earth’s axial tilt reaches its maximum 23° 26′ and the sun starts to reach its highest position in the sky only one thing creeps into my mind, its barbecue season in Toronto. So dust off that patio furniture, plop in that over sized umbrella, uncover your barbecue and make sure your barbecue is safe and ready.

Most propane barbecues are not dangerous but unfortunately propane accidents do happen, and I know this personally. Propane is a highly combustible hydrocarbon gas and proper safety measures should be followed.

Below is a list of How To’s and tips to keep your next family barbecue safe.

The Propane Education & Research Council and National Propane Gas Association have compiled a list of propane gas grill and cylinder safety tips:

Propane Grill Do’s:

  • – Follow all of the grill manufacturer’s instructions and keep written materials and manuals in a safe, accessible place.
  • – When not in use, make sure all grill burner controls are turned off and that the valve cylinder is closed.
  • – Keep grill covered when not in use. Make sure the grill is shut off and cooled off before covering.
  • – Always use or store cylinders outdoors in an upright, vertical position.
  • – When you fill or exchange your cylinder, have your supplier check for dents, damage, rust or leaks.
  • – Before lighting your propane gas grill burner, use a leak-detection solution to check all connections for tightness. A soapy solution around the valves and tubing can be an effective leak detector.
  • – If there is an uncontrollable release of gas or a fire, call the fire department immediately and move all people and pets away from the unit.
  • – If you experience difficulties in the operation of your gas grill, contact your local propane provider for service.

Propane Grill Don’ts:

  • – Do not smoke while handling the propane cylinder.
  • – Do not allow children to tamper or play with the cylinder or grill.
  • – Do not use, store or transport your cylinder where it would be exposed to high temperatures. (This includes storing spare cylinders under or near the grill.)

Installing & Connecting a Propane Tank to your Gas Grill

By following the proper steps and procedures this barbecue season can be the safest yet. So enjoy the sun, patio life and cold drinks. All the best from Field ID.

Source: Propane Education & Research Council and National Propane Gas Association

Safety Compliance: The Importance of Being Prepared for the Worst

Happy Thursday Bloggers! Once again Thursdays means that I bring you my legendary safety compliance blogs. For all of you who don’t know, I grew up in the small suburban city of Mississauga, right outside of Toronto. This morning I woke up to some very disturbing news. One of the condos in Mississauga just had a hot water pipe burst causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the property. In addition, it leaked hot water down from the sixth floor to the parking garage level. The accident killed three cats and one woman’s feet suffered severe burns from walking in the hot water.

It was horrible to wake up to such terrible news, but I think this accident teaches us a very important lesson about safety compliance. There are always two reasons why you should do your very best to ensure your equipment is compliant. The first is that it will cost you millions of dollars when the unexpected happens. A single water pipe broke and it leaked down and caused millions of dollars in damage. Accidents are out of your control. Who would think that one water pipe would cause damage to all the floors underneath it, including the parking garage? Everyone living on those floors would have to be compensated and there will be large amounts of renovation and repair necessary, all from just a single water pipe.

The second reason why you should always be compliant with your equipment and make sure to check them frequently, is the safety of others. As I stated above, there is no way to know how far the damage will go or the intensity of an accident. This water pipe put everyone living on these floors in danger. An accident is never foreseeable, you can never tell when something’s going to happen. The worst part is that you never know how intense an accident will be until it happens. This morning when I heard that there was a hot water pipe burst, I didn’t expect to hear that it caused millions of dollars in damage and killed three cats with an injured woman. People woke up to find their apartments flooded with scalding hot water. This teaches us to always prepare for the worst of accidents, even when we don’t think an accident can be very severe.

It is very difficult to foresee the damage that an accident can cause. However, this is also the reason why we should give our best efforts to make sure that accidents don’t happen. Even if you think that it might not be a very serious accident, it is better to prepare for the worst possible situation. This way, you take no chances and will never be caught off-guard. The cause of this water pipe burst has not be discovered yet, but hopefully everyone can stay safe until then.

New OSHA Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment in General Industry

Whenever I walk by a construction site and see everyone wearing fall protection harnesses, hard hats and other PPE I wonder “who pays for that?”.  It definitely differs from industry to industry, but as of February 10, 2011 it just became a lot more clear.  OSHA has issued their Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment in General Industry.  The goal of this documented (taken right from the source) is:

“This instruction, Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective  Equipment in General Industry, establishes OSHA’s general enforcement and guidance policy for its standards addressing personal protective equipment (PPE). It instructs OSHA enforcement personnel on both the agency’s interpretations of those standards and the procedures for enforcing them.”

What I found particularly interesting about this document is how detailed OSHA is about what they require for specific occupations.  The standards are broken down into 5 main categories, but all of these have a large number of sub-categories.  The 5 main categories are:

  1. General Industry
  2. Shipyard
  3. Marine Terminals
  4. Longshoring
  5. Construction

These categories then break down into 143 sub-categories.  Some examples of sub-categories are focused on basic head and foot protection but also cover what one would need when working in very specific areas, such as working with lead.  This type of reading may not be very exciting, but it is put in place to save lives and safety managers must be familiar with their PPE requirements.

OSHA very clearly spells out what they are looking for when doing an inspection in this document.  One of the sections in the document is very clearly titled “Inspection Guidelines For General Industry”.  Having a good PPE program including tracking your PPE will help keep your workers safe and also ensure you don’t get into any trouble if you are the subject of an OSHA inspection.

Resources to Help you with Field ID

We are always looking for new and better ways to deliver the help and resources to get the most out of your Field ID account.

We previously had a number of different pages on our website dedicated to providing you with help, setup wizards and contact information. What these lacked was one page with all of the resources that you’ll need, until now.

The Resources page can easily be found by going to www.fieldid.com/resources or clicking Support in your Field ID account. On this page you will find our phone support information, email support, Field ID University, Community, Help Documentation and the Hardware Wizard.


So whether you are using Field ID for daily inspections, audits, forklift inspections, Fire Safety or any other type Safety Compliance or Management, everything you need is only a click away.

Safety Compliance and Inspection Management with Microsoft Office?

I use Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook all the time.  Outside of our ERP system (Netsuite) I think Office is a great tool for many jobs.  With that being said I quickly recognize when I need a specialized tool to do a task such as accounting or CRM.  It is very tempting to use Excel for almost anything, but we would never consider doing our accounting in Excel.  Below are three reasons why Microsoft Office is not the best tool for safety compliance.

No Built in Data Backup

It becomes very hard to backup safety compliance records when you are using so many different tools.  You might have a list of fire extinguishers in Excel on your desktop computer (not backed up).  You may have a few inspection checklists in Microsoft Word which is in the same folder.  Your email is backed up, but you don’t really know how to get at all the information that has been “archived”.  When using a web based system everything is always easy to search and backed up.

Error Prone

Once you start collecting a large amount of information in Excel, it quickly becomes unmanageable.  You need to triple and quadruple check formulas.  If you enter incorrect data into one field, it has the possibility to effect other fields.  How often do you test and re-test formulas?  Probably not that often.  If you are using Microsoft Word to do inspection certificates you may need to ensure that a certain value is a unit of measure or a date / time.  Although this is possible, it is a lot of work to set up and maintain and leaves room for error.


Searching for information can be very slow.  Finding information in a pile of Microsoft Word files is near impossible and once you have more than one sheet in Excel, it is challenging to find the information you are looking for.  Let’s say you have a separate Excel file for your fall protection harnesses, fire extinguishers and rigging gear.  Each one has a list of locations that the equipment is currently located at.  If you need to change the location of only a few of the harnesses you will more than likely have to go through each one line by line and this can take forever.  A purpose built tool for tracking this equipment would allow you to “mass update” the location of harnesses from one to another very easily for instance.

Like I said at the beginning of this blog post, I really do love Microsoft Office BUT you should not be running your business on Excel, and this includes safety compliance.