Did you know oxygen reduction systems can prevent fires? This ISO guide tells how to design, install, plan and maintain them

by Brianna Crandall — October 16, 2019 — One of the most effective ways of preventing fires in buildings is to reduce the level of oxygen in the air, according to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which recently published what it says is the world’s first International Standard for oxygen reduction systems (ORSs).

Prevention is always better than cure, and there are few better examples than with fires, points out ISO. If fires can only survive when there is oxygen to fuel them, removing it from the air is an effective way to ensure that the environment remains fire-free. Oxygen reduction systems (ORSs) do that by creating atmospheres where there is not enough oxygen for a fire to break out, but enough for humans to breathe easily.

However, installing such systems can be a complex business, and requires in-depth knowledge of the space being protected, how it is used and by whom, notes ISO.

Currently, there are various national standards and technical guidelines in place, mainly in Europe, but what has been missing is an internationally agreed-upon set of requirements for quality, safety and performance that everyone can use. Until now.

ISO 20338, Oxygen reduction systems for fire prevention — Design, installation, planning and maintenance, specifies minimum requirements and defines the specifications for the design, installation and maintenance of fixed oxygen reduction systems. It applies to those systems that use nitrogen-enriched air used for fire prevention in buildings and industrial production plants, and can be used for new systems as well as for the extension and modification of existing systems.

Alan Elder, chair of the ISO technical subcommittee that developed the standard, said it will be useful to users of ORSs, such as facilities owners and managers, as well as for meeting regulatory requirements.

Insurance companies, manufacturers, installers and users will all benefit from ISO 20338, particularly from regions outside Europe, because it will enable them to improve the performance and safety of ORS, as well as provide a way for governments to set regulatory requirements, and for users to meet them, says ISO.

ISO 20338 was developed by Subcommittee 8, Gaseous media and firefighting systems using gas, of ISO Technical Committee ISO/TC 21, Equipment for fire protection and fire fighting. The secretariat of ISO/TC 21/SC 8 is held by Standards Australia, ISO’s member for Australia.

ISO 20338, Oxygen reduction systems for fire prevention — Design, installation, planning and maintenance can be purchased from your national ISO member or the ISO Store. The Table of Contents is viewable on the Online Browsing Platform.