Oxygen Hazard & Fire Risk Analysis
Virtually all practical engineering materials, including metals, can react and burn in an oxygen-enriched atmosphere. They can burn with sufficient violence to risk severe injury to personnel and total system loss. The reactivity of an oxygen system cannot simply be "turned off" because potential fuels and ignition sources are always present to some degree in an oxygen-enriched environment. Thus, the risk of ignition and sustained combustion within oxygen systems is considered to be an inherent hazard. An approach to coping with the inherent oxygen hazard has been developed by ASTM International's Committee G04, where WHA engineers and scientists have actively participated in the development of standard methods for oxygen system design, materials selection, oxygen cleaning, and oxygen compatibility testing of materials and components. WHA has used these standards and others from industry along with their extensive experience with nearly all industries that use oxygen to develop a formal risk assessment tool called an Oxygen Hazard and Fire Risk Analysis (OHFRA). WHA's OHFRA process is consistent with the evaluation methods prescribed by CGA, ISO, NFPA, NASA, and other international governing entities. For example, the WHA OHFRA process is primarily based on ASTM's standard guide for oxygen system design (G88) but also uses the following standards and guidelines from specific industries. WHA has contributed to the development and periodic reviews of each of these standards and guidelines:
- ISO 15001, Requirements for the oxygen compatibility of materials, components and devices for anesthetic and respiratory applications
- ASTM Manual 36, Safe Use of Oxygen and Oxygen Systems
- NFPA 53, Recommended Practice on Materials, Equipment, and Systems Used in Oxygen-Enriched Atmospheres
The OHFRA process is not only a tool used to analyze risk; it also provides a means to mitigate risk by utilizing the principles found in these same standards and guidelines. Recommendations are developed based on a three-fold approach to mitigating fire risk with oxygen systems, the same approach used throughout all of our oxygen safety training:
- Maximize the use of oxygen compatible materials.
- Minimize ignition mechanism severity.
- Utilize good practices.
The OHFRA process can be performed at a system-level (involving multiple components and equipment) or it can be performed at a component-level for single components.