Milwaukee - November 14, 2006 - Based on a growing demand for its technology and the continuing need to combat burned dock seals caused by heat build-up of semi-trailer marker lights, Rite-Hite Corporation has announced that all Frommelt dock seals will now be equipped with Firefighter(TM) heat-dissipating technology as a standard safety feature in head pads and head curtains.
Frommelt introduced Firefighter heat-dissipating technology in 2003 on its premium dock sealing systems and as an option on other dock seal and shelter models after identifying burned dock seals and dock seal fires as a major problem in the materials handling industry. However, a number of factors drove the need to make the technology more readily available, according to Frommelt Products Corporation President Paul Rowlett.
"Loading dock fires continue to be a problem," Rowlett said. "In fact, we've seen the problem increase steadily since first introducing the Firefighter header. We've seen literally hundreds of dock seal burning and loading dock fire incidents during the past three years. At the same time, the demand for Firefighter heat-dissipating technology continues to grow as facility managers and safety engineers recognize the potential danger at their own docks. These factors made the decision to make Firefighter protection a standard feature an easy one."
Frommelt's unique Firefighter technology prevents dock seals from burning due to the intense heat build-up that can occur when ordinary trailer marker lights are compressed into the seals. The technology combines a fire-retardant foam core covered by a fabric layer and three layers of reinforced foil material that dissipates heat across the entire head pad or curtain, keeping fabric and foam temperatures below the point at which burning can occur. The entire header is then covered with a layer of high-strength, friction-resistant Durathon(TM) fabric for maximum durability. Firefighter technology does what simple fire retardant materials cannot: It prevents the burning or fire from occurring, rather than simply extinguishing the fire once it starts.
In the late 1990s, Frommelt discovered that a rise in the number of burned dock seals was due to a combination of factors. The primary factor is the enforcement of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108. This standard requires all trailers over 80 inches wide to have three rear identification lamps and two rear clearance lamps on the top back of the trailer. Left energized against conventional foam head pads where their heat becomes concentrated, tests have shown trailer marker lights can reach 900°F in as little as 20 minutes. This intense heat can cause scorching or melting of outer fabric and the breakdown of the foam core beneath. As the petroleum-based foam decomposes from the heat build-up, additional heat is generated as well as flammable gases. If the temperature reaches 800°F, a fire can spontaneously combust, especially if there is an influx of oxygen as the trailer pulls away from the dock. Frommelt has documented dozens of cases in which this precise process appears to be the cause of catastrophic dock fires.
Although trailer manufacturers have begun using LED lights that generally don't generate enough heat to cause such burning, the vast majority of trailers on the road are still running with traditional marker lights, indicating that the problem will be around for years to come.
According to Rowlett, many Fortune 100 companies now use Firefighter heat-dissipating technology exclusively on their dock seals as a precaution, and the trend is growing.
"Obviously, those companies that have already experienced dock seal burning or fire incidents have been the first to install Firefighter headers to prevent future hazards. Also, many leading companies understand the issue and have taken a proactive approach to protecting their docks. Yet the number of dock fires still occurring shows us there are many people who are still unaware of the risk. It's also a sign that some companies might have a false sense of security that a dock fire won't happen to them, even though they might be susceptible to the problem. Any loading dock equipped with foam dock seals is at risk, which is why we've taken the step to provide Firefighter protection as a standard safety feature on all of our dock seals."
Rowlett adds that fire investigators and fire/safety professionals are also gaining awareness of the loading dock fire issue, which is another step in the right direction.
"It's great to see fire professionals becoming more proactive on this problem. However, this is an issue that is not going away and it's up to facility and safety managers to take an active role in helping prevent the problem. Our goal is for decision-makers to consider dock seals and shelters with the appropriate technology that virtually eliminates this serious safety risk."
In addition to being standard on all dock seal head pads and head curtains, Frommelt's Firefighter heat-dissipating technology is available as an option on the company's dock shelters and Insulator(TM) dock seal side pads, as well as on replacement headers for any existing foam dock seal. Rite-Hite Representatives also continue to offer free inspections of loading dock seals and shelters. Information about the cause and prevention of loading dock fires can be found at the Frommelt website: www.dockfires.com. For more information about Firefighter heat-dissipating technology and products, visit www.ritehite.com.
About Frommelt Products Corporation:
Frommelt Products Corporation, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., with manufacturing operations in Dubuque, Iowa, is a recognized leader in loading dock environmental control innovation. Frommelt is part of the Rite-Hite® family of companies providing high quality materials handling systems for maximum safety, security and productivity. Principal products include trailer restraints, dock levelers, dock seals and shelters, industrial power doors, integrated control systems and aftermarket products and services.