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Cutting explosion risk through advanced maths

While factory owners work hard to minimise the risks of fire or explosion in manufacturing plants there is always a trade-off between risk and cost, but making objective decisions proved difficult until a Brunel mathematician devised an algorithm to do just that.

Dr Paresh Date’s work was eagerly adopted by UT Fire and Security - the world’s largest installer of industrial explosion protection systems. They use it to develop systems costing anywhere between £40,000 and £700,000.

At its heart, the algorithm gives explosion protection system designers a standard method to measure the risk that remains after installation of safety measures.

While it’s always possible to engineer a more expensive system by specifying more sensors or fire extinguishers or flame arresters, customers need to know whether the extra cost means a truly safer factory.

For an industrial plant operator the algorithm makes transparent whether measures cut risk substantially or only marginally so allowing commercial decisions to be made.

The academics believe the algorithm could also be adapted to other sectors where safety is critical, from building passenger aircraft to offshore oil and gas rigs.