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A Q&A with ANT Telecom on Tackling COMAH Regulatory Sites

Written by ANT Telecom | 7 Jul 2015
Can ANT Telecom explain what COMAH sites are?

Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) regulations are enforced to ensure that the risks of potential major hazards in working environments are reduced. There are two levels of regulations, divided into a ‘lower tier’ and an ‘upper tier’. The risk level and inventory affiliated with a particular site will establish which tier it is categorised into. COMAH regulations may be imposed on sites associated with the management and control of toxic chemical substances, hazardous conditions or electrical plants and water plants.

What are some of the issues that COMAH site companies are facing?

Due to the production process COMAH sites tend to have areas on site that contain gas or dust, making the atmosphere potentially explosive. These areas on site that are referred to as ATEX zones are restricted, whereby only certified equipment that has been approved by the regulatory body ATEX are permitted. ATEX zones can vary in size scaling from a small 10 x 10 room to a building(s) or whole production plant.

Members of staff entering an ATEX zone must leave any standard non-ATEX certified devices such as mobile GSM phones or radios outside the restricted area, making anyone entering virtually uncontactable. This is a massive problem if lots of staff operate within the ATEX area for large parts of the day if they cannot be reached.

Furthermore, lone workers are at risk in terms of safety. Maintenance workers and engineers will often find themselves working alone or on expansive sites out of reach of others. COMAH sites often contain metal flooring and steep racks, railings and stairways that employees walk on, which if slipped on, could cause them serious harm. Other instances include heavy equipment which could fall or need to be lifted and result in injury, or working machinery that if obstructed could fatally injure. Electrical engineers would face similar issues, risking shocks from wiring and water pumps. Any staff operating alone in hazardous ATEX environments without a mobile communication device to contact colleagues or a device that can automatically trigger an alarm in the event of a serious injury is incredibly foolish and short sighted.

What approach does ANT Telecom take with your customer who has hazardous sites and procedures?

As automated communication specialists we follow a consultative approach, which is to identify staff roles, processes and what jobs they will be carrying out. It is important to recognise the environment they are working in, the amount and type of surrounding hazardous equipment and the longevity of time spent working alone. This way we can evaluate whether they are a high or low risk, and determine which communicative solutions best suit them and the environment. Also our approach can sometimes help the customer uncover where staff processes are slow or inefficient and where appropriate recommend solutions that can increase productivity.

An integral part of our process is to find out what technology these COMAH sites are currently using to communicate with each other, because often we have the ability to enhance their current communication system to incorporate a solution. If we enhance their communications we then encourage companies to buy better and smarter. Rather than taking their existing infrastructure out and replacing with something new, we can add on products / smart devices to improve what they already have. Our policy is to find the right solution for each individual organisation, as we know one size doesn’t fit all.

If you have any questions that you would like to put to us about COMAH regulations or discuss how ANT Telecom could assist your organisation, please don’t hesitate to call one of our team on 01494 833123.

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