Breathing in the hazardous zone!
Cam Lock is a high level manufacturing company within the Camberley Group Plc.
With the Group’s specialist capabilities lying in elastomeric mouldings, Cam Lock’s life support and breathing apparatus products are amongst some of the most technologically advanced systems available on the market. Their combination of enhanced performance and reliability, incorporating cutting edge safety features, offers real user benefits.
Having gained a reputation in the supply of aircrew respirators for chemical warfare operations within the British and US defence forces and with high performance oxygen masks for the Typhoon (Eurofighter) and Saab Gripen highly agile (9G) fast jet fighters, Cam Lock has used this platform to move into the manufacture of breathing systems designed for stringent industrial applications. The first of these industrial products was the FAST-mask, unique amongst all other masks currently on the market as it can be donned in less than five seconds!“These other systems require you to put on the mask and then manually tighten it with a series of tensioning straps,” explains John Swatton, commercial sales director.
“We found that unlike fire fighters who are very familiar with their equipment and train with it regularly, industrial sectors like oil and gas do not use these masks on a daily basis, so that in the case of an emergency mistakes can be made. With the FAST-mask such problems are eliminated as once deployed the head harness automatically expands, and then automatically tensions itself once a face seal is achieved. This quick donning face mask offers instant protection, which is faster than any other system,” he adds.
Representing something of a step change in the industry, Cam Lock then took this technology to an even higher level with the development of the FAST-cowl. “Within the oil and gas industry there were emerging technologies in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) with notable projects taking place in the north Caspian Sea and southern Oman,” begins John. “Both capture a sour gas called hydrogen sulphide (H2S) which is extremely dangerous, particularly projects with high partial pressures of H2S where the reservoirs are pressurised to very high levels of up to 800 bar, concerns were raised about safety in the event of a gas leak.Many major oil and gas companies have now adopted a ‘Zoning Philosophy’ for these high toxic risk areas, known as Red Zones, which require the mandatory wearing of BA equipment offering quick face mask donning and high protection factor performance.
“Risk assessment studies demonstrated that in such an incident personnel would only have 75 seconds to don their face masks, yet all of the masks at these facilities took on average one to two minutes to put on manually. So we not only developed a quick-donning mask but added a cowl to it to provide another buffer zone of protection around the face seal.”
Up until this point no face mask system was able to protect anyone with facial hair as this makes it impossible to get a face seal, but by pursuing the highest possible levels of protection Cam Lock found its FAST-cowl could do just that. “Our technology is so good that it can protect people with facial hair,” confirms John. “We carried out tests with the British Standards Institution (BSI) using volunteers from the London Fire Service, each of whom had facial hair growth, with results that were conclusive.”
Whilst the FAST-mask and FAST-cowl systems fall under the banner of pure escape, Cam Lock has developed a product line for daily operational use, the RIG-walker, is a working breathing apparatus with an escape facility, which is connected to a cascade airline supply whilst the wearer carries out their tasks. In the event of an alarm the airline supply hose is disconnected by the wearer, the RIG-Walker automatically switches over to its emergency air cylinder allowing the individual to escape.
“We have recently carried out work on a major project in Qatar, involving the largest Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) site in the world, to upgrade their RIG-walker system harnesses to reduce the weight to five kg, in recognition of the fact that personnel are not only wearing a breathing system, but also carrying other instruments, tools, and safety equipment, all within a hot and humid environment during the summer months,” notes John.
With Cam Lock’s products clearly tailored to the high-end of the market for both high protection and other benefits, the company is looking to expand its sales even further within the oil and gas industry. As well as the breathing apparatus technology itself, it is also promoting its additional managed service option. “A typical example of this is a contract that we have in the oilfields in southern Oman,” highlights John. “We have a team of Cam Lock breathing apparatus service technicians providing a managed service operation with our regional joint venture company Arabian Industries LLC, and they look after the equipment on behalf of the client. At the end of each shift we receive the BA equipment back, sanitise it, recharge the cylinder, test it and then return it into service ready for the next day’s operational use. In the remote areas we have a fully equipped mobile service vehicle where the BA technician visits the various facilities and cluster sites to make sure the BA equipment is operational.
“We also carry out all servicing, periodic maintenance, and hydro testing of the cylinder thereby guaranteeing the availability of the equipment. We see the trend now going towards this kind of one-stop-shop managed service provision; we are in discussions with a number of large customers who are exploring the benefits of this option for their Cam Lock BA products.”
Cam Lock Limited
Products: Breathing apparatus