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Is it time to revisit your heat treatment process’s safety systems?

Posted by Grzegorz Moroz | Jun 10, 2016 9:29:34 AM | Metals,Safety

Safety in industries where industrial gases are used requires training, diligence and a thorough knowledge of best practices, standards and the regulations issued by various authorities at the national and international levels. For example, when considering safety solutions for flammable atmosphere heat treatment processes like sintering, brazing, anb annealing to name a few, it’s important to understand guidelines provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  

 NFPA 86 Standard for Ovens and Furnaces

All heat-treating facilities should familiarize themselves with NFPA 86 “Standard for Ovens and Furnaces,” which is intended to minimize fire and explosion hazards of ovens and furnaces used for commercial and industrial processing of materials. NFPA 86 addresses design, installation, operation, inspection, testing and maintenance of Class A, B, C, and D ovens, dryers, furnaces, thermal oxidizers and any other heated enclosure used for processing materials.


NFPA 86 also offers specific requirements for nitrogen supply systems used to purge flammable atmosphere furnaces as part of fire protection and safety systems. This is of particular interest if you operate a heat treatment process using a flammable furnace atmosphere (typically hydrogen). If this is the case, it’s likely that you employ a nitrogen purge gas to help ensure safe operation. To enhance safety and ease of use, specifically designed nitrogen supply systems with monitoring panels and purge panels can provide a variety of capabilities to meet a specifc operation's needs.  


 Some systems, for example, alert you to changes in the   supply of liquid nitrogen, with alarms that allows   furnace operators and plant personel to avoid   emergency situations by triggering a purge shutdown.   The alarms clue you in to low liquid storage, levels low   liquid storage pressures  and whether the liquid   nitrogen  is undergoing proper vaporization.

 Alarm panels typically would be installed near your   furnace operations, and can be user friendly with light   and sound alarms. Customization may be available by   working with applications engineers to design a nitrogen system that meets your process specifications for flow and pressure. The engineers should also be able to adapt the system to monitor other gases, including hydrogen or argon, if so desired.    

Another safety concern: oxygen deficiency

One of the greatest hazards associated with nitrogen and other inert gases, such as argon, carbon dioxide and helium, is that they displace oxygen, which can lead to suffocation.

Most asphyxiation incidents occur because workers enter vessels or confined spaces connected to an inert gas supply before checking the oxygen concentration in the air.

Employees must be trained to identify, anticipate and mitigate potential risks. This includes best practices for entering confined spaces and obtaining proper work permits. In addition to the NFPA, several companies offer training materials and nitrogen safety training.

Remember, no organization is exempt from the practice of safety – and it is always the right time to assess your safety practices and standards.  See the resources below for additional information.


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