Equipment World

March 2015

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Page 42 of 79 | March 2015 43 F ire prevention is every- body's job, but there is one person who can do more than most to keep heavy equipment safe from fire, and that is the techni- cian. The reason: most fires happen when something on the machine is neglected. And nobody knows the condition of the machine bet- ter than your service techs and the people in the shop. Fires are rare on new and well- maintained equipment. "But re- member the vehicles or equipment that come into your shop are the ones that have the problems," says Suzanne Smyth, a PhD and physical engineer who investigates fires for Exponent, an engineering and scien- tific consulting firm. We talked to a handful of engi- neers whose job it is to investigate heavy equipment and industrial fires to find out the most common sources of fire and what you can do to prevent them. Here's what they told us. IGNITION There are two basic contributing factors to any fire, a source of igni- tion and a source of fuel. Ignition can be a spark or a flame or just high heat, but in today's complex heavy equipment there can be mul- tiple sources. Turbochargers. Although the turbocharger sits high up on the engine it is a constant source of high heat. "On an excavator the main hydraulic valve sits right behind the turret in a bank behind the engine," says Daniel Olson, a licensed professional engineer and certified fire investigator for Warren Forensics. "Most manufacturers put a good firewall there, but if you get a 3,000-psi mist of hydraulic fluid you are going to get a combus- tible mix of hydraulic fluid and air. Depending on the fuel-air mixture you can get something pretty bad happening; not explosive, but it will track back to the source of the leak very quickly." And turbos get hot enough to ignite just about any type maintenance | by Tom Jackson | Technicians – your first line of defense when it comes to preventing fires on heavy equipment A leaky or worn fuel or hydraulic line, a hot turbo and suddenly you have a big problem.

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