BNFL is a large user of respiratory protection equipment (RPE), a subject where the mandatory regulations and compulsory audit histories that must be kept, represent a substantial managerial task. Respirators require maintenance to be carried out by properly trained personnel at least every three months and after each use. In addition, wearers of RPE must also be tested to ensure the equipment fits correctly and accurate records must then be kept of all tests.

Seeking a cost effective and efficient way to manage these RPE records, BNFL contracted Initiative Business Systems Ltd to develop a computerised Auto ID system using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

The Respirator Management System uses RFID Tags which hold a unique number for each respirator. The Tags work in a similar way to a barcode, but can still operate even when concealed or dirty. During testing, respirators were fitted with Tags and subjected to a repeated washing cycle. After this process, the Tags were found to be unaffected by either the mechanical abuse of the washing machine or exposure to temperatures of 80C+.

As RPE equipment is issued, the system checks the test history of the respirator, the fit test status of the wearer and whether the respirator is the correct type and size for the wearer. The system also records a comprehensive issue history, reschedules the issued respirator for after use maintenance and updates the stock level of available respirators.

Quality Matters at BNFL Oldbury Power Station
(excerpt from Dec 2001 Issue)
If the Mask Fits Wear It - written by Mike Bennett

"... In order to manage the maintenance and testing of the masks, a respirator management system has been introduced. Initiative Business Systems who developed our fire extinguisher and Health Physics instrument systems, were approached and with the assistance of Management Services, came up with a system, which meets our requirements.

The system uses radio frequency identification that recognises a chip located within the respirator body. A scanner is then used to detect the chip identifying the mask to the system.

The respirator management system has complete information about both wearers and masks. During the issue process, the system checks the maintenance history of the respirator, the wearer's fit test status and whether the respirator is the correct type and size for the wearer. Only when all these elements have been satisfied can the issue take place. The system will automatically reschedule maintenance, avoiding re-issue until Services and Facilities staff have scanned it, recording that maintenance and testing was satisfactory.

This saves a significant amount of time during the issue and maintenance process, increasing the accuracy of record keeping and providing a variety of up to date management reports."

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