Pushing a new mark


With about one bus fire in Australia each week, the push is on for a fire safety quality mark

Pushing a new mark
Pushing a new mark

By Amie Hickland | August 22, 2013

Australian bus operators may not recognise the P-Mark certification now, but in a few years it is hoped to be one of the most common safety stickers related to fire safety in the bus industry.

Developed at the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, the mark sets a new international standard of safety in evaluating the performance of fire suppression systems in bus engine compartments.

The institute has developed a new fire test standard SP method 4912 with international stakeholders and has established a voluntary certification and quality mark according to SPCR 183 (SP Certification Rules).

At the moment, several overseas companies are running tests in order to obtain the P-mark and recently the first issued P-mark certificate was issued in accordance with SPCR 183.

SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden Department of Fire Technology Marketing Manager Fredrik Rosen, pictured, says the P-Mark certification is a voluntary quality mark for fire suppression systems in engine compartments of buses and coaches in the industry.

The standards include testing of fire suppression performance, component testing, risk assessment, follow-up inspections, and sampling of the extinguishing agent.

Rosen says there has been an increase of severity in bus fires since the late 1990s which makes the need for some sort of certification urgent.

The fires are mainly due to stringent noise requirements, lower permissible emission levels, higher engine compartment temperatures, increased use in plastics in modern engines and the distance buses are driving without proper maintenance.

Rosen says the benefits with fire suppression systems on buses include allowing safe escape for the most vulnerable passengers, a reduction of loss of lives and buses, reduction of societal costs, to secure business continuity and enhance goodwill.

"By adopting the P-mark the industry can be assured that the systems maintain a good level of quality and safety," he says.

"At the same time it will be easy to spot and exclude substandard systems from the market.

"In addition the P-mark will facilitate procurement processes for both buyers and sellers as a common platform."

He says the implementation process for the P-Mark certificate is going on as we speak.

"Our hope is to have it implemented all over the world as there currently is a lack of an international standard," he says.


ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS

Bus Industry Confederation Executive Director Michael Apps says engine based bus fires have grown as an issue as new Australian Design Rule (ADR) requirements such as new emission standards have resulted in engines running at a higher temperature.

Bus Industry Confederation statistics show there are up to 70 bus fires per year in Australia alone.

"It’s not a particularly big issue, but we need to clearly identify why bus fire occur, when they occur," says Apps.

The Bus Fire Mitigation Advisory Committee has been set up and is currently investigating bus fires in many states of Australia and their results are expected to complete in October.

The main objective is to reduce, or mitigate the risk of fire and if a fire should occur, and what steps need to be taken to minimize the risks.

The advisory will be based around maintenance and fire suppressant options and procedures for vehicle evacuations.

Apps says this will give a clearer picture as to why bus fires occur and which preventative measures bus and coach operators can take to minimise the risk of fire.

He says history shows most bus fires are a maintenance issue and can be avoided if operators maintain their fleet.


RECENT BUS FIRES

There have been three major bus fires buses fuelled by compressed natural gas in Australia in the last four months, according to Rosen.

"This led to the Transport Workers Union in West Australia threatening to strike over the bus fires unless Perth's 550-strong gas bus fleet was taken off the road at the beginning of the year," he says.

"Due to this fact the acting Transport Minister Kim Hames said on March 26 that $1.4 million would be spent improving fire suppression equipment on the buses."

Rosen also presented the P-Mark to the Australian steering committee in July and hopes the P-Mark will be adopted as part of the mitigation document.

He says representation has also been made to the Federal Government and other jurisdictions regarding the need to ensure reasonable measures are included in vehicle design to reduce fire risk and control spread of a fire event.



AROUND THE WORLD

Rosen hopes the P-Mark will become an international safety standard and countries around the world will eventually adopt the symbol.

In North America, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has referred to SPCR 183 in their procurement, and Rosen understands more are in line.

Although it is not a formal requirement, the P-Mark is a ‘strong desire’.

Rosen has also presented the P-Mark in Israel after the Ministry of Transportation, Road Safety and Infrastructure recently announced it would close down one of the largest transit operators in the country if fire suppression systems are not installed in the buses.

Rosen says Israel intended on developing their own national safety standard, but Rosen hopes they will adopt the P-Mark instead.

"The system is already in place and can easily be adopted and introduced on the market to immediately satisfy the urgent need for installing these systems in Israel," he says.

The First P-mark certificate for fire suppression systems in engine compartments of buses and coaches is now published at www.sp.se/safebus/certified.



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