Suppression systems “could save lives, combines and this year’s harvest”

Farmers installing suppression kits on their combine harvesters are set to benefit from discounted insurance and a safer harvest, says NFU Mutual.

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is offering incentives for combines fitted at point of purchase, or retro-fitted, with suppression systems which meet P-mark certification standards.

“Combine fires put lives at risk, cause huge disruption to harvesting and destroy expensive machines so we’re very pleased introduce insurance discounts on combines fitted with accredited suppression systems”, said Tom Murray from the agricultural vehicle underwriting team.

He explained: “Sometimes engine bay fires can break out despite regular maintenance and removal of debris, but suppression systems mitigate risks and significantly reduce the severity and frequency of farm fires.”

In a recent live demonstration, the insurer partnered with one of the leading suppression manufacturers Fireward and agricultural salvage firm Adam Hewitt Ltd to set fire to a combine and put a P-mark system to the test.

Tom explained: “Tests have shown that fires can be reduced or prevented altogether by suppression systems. When an engine bay catches fire, it needs to be rapidly detected, effectively contained, and quickly extinguished. Suppression systems are also effective on fires involving solid combustibles, flammable liquids and electricity.”

The P-mark approved suppression kits involve dual agent systems which have two cylinders, one with powder and the other with a foam. The powder acts by interrupting the chemical reaction taking place and cutting off the oxygen supply. The foam suppressing agent in the second cylinder rapidly cools superhot surfaces of over 200°C in larger engine bays which also hold turbo chargers and filters.

NFU Mutual says it is all too aware of the huge devastation and stress caused by combine fires during the busy harvest period. In 2020 the firm dealt with more than 80 combine harvester fires, including eight which were valued at over £100,000 each.

Bob Henderson, who heads NFU Mutual’s engineering team, deals with many burnt out agricultural vehicles each year. Bob said: “Wider adoption of fire suppression systems could be a serious game changer for arable farming – helping protect lives, property and the year’s harvest. While insurance can cover the cost of a replacement, farmers still risk losing critical harvesting time during a tight weather window and huge difficulty hiring a combine when machines are in high demand.”

To find out more about how to prevent fires and discounts available for combines fitting P-mark approved suppression systems, get in contact with your local NFU Mutual agency.

The P-mark is a global standard which brings together best practice from Europe. This accreditation confirms that the product is type-tested and that installation and fitting is inspected. This robust approach ensures that any suppression system is suitably tested and appropriate for the conditions in which agricultural vehicles are being used.

 

NFU Mutual tips to prevent fire this harvest:

  • Regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots in combines and balers and check the machine over when you finish use
  • Fit a suppression system that meets P-mark status to contain, extinguish and prevent fire
  • Use a mobile compressor to regularly blow away debris
  • Switch off engines and ensure moving parts have stopped before clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance
  • Always stop to investigate hot-running engines or bearings
  • Have a plan in place in the event of fire including a system for keeping in contact with lone workers
  • Keep mobile phones on you at all times – not left in a tractor or pickup cab
  • Make sure drivers are aware of the locations and heights of power lines and check that you will safely pass under wires
  • Make sure there is a fire extinguisher on the combine – and that it is regularly maintained – and that you know where the nearest water source is.

 

Yard:

  • Instruct drivers to keep to safe speeds in the grain yard
  • Check signs are in place to help lorry drivers go to the right place, and alert members of the public to any potential hazards
  • Keep children away from working areas
  • Clean dust regularly from grain dryers – and ensure that all staff running the drier are fully trained and know what to do if fire breaks out
  • Ensure fire extinguishers are readily accessible
  • Make sure ladders and platforms used for maintenance are in good condition and a safe system of work is in operation.

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