Ionization Smoke Detector

Last updated: July 16, 2019

What Does Ionization Smoke Detector Mean?

An ionization smoke detector is a fire alarm system with a built-in ionization chamber supported by two plates with voltage between them. Electrons present between the two plates are displaced by smoke entering the chamber, which in turn causes an alarm to go off.

This alarm system has a proven potential to save lives, prevent burn injuries, and protect commercial assets in the workplace from fire damage.

Safeopedia Explains Ionization Smoke Detector

In the context of workplace fire hazards, certain recommendations, norms, and regulations have been put in place to protect workers from burn injuries and loss of life. These recommendations include the extensive use of fire alarms and smoke detectors, including but not limited to ionization smoke detectors.

The specialty of ionization smoke detectors is their ability to go off in the presence of a fire hazard even when little smoke is produced by the fire source. It must be noted that all fires do not produce significant amounts of smoke. This is especially true in industrial settings wherein the use of highly flammable materials (including wood, paper, and liquids) may lead to flaming fires where smoke production isn't substantial enough to set off the alarm on ordinary smoke detectors. In such cases, ionization smoke detectors have proven to be more effective and are easily set off by small amounts of smoke entering built-in ionization chambers within these devices.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the U.S. Department of Labor recommends the use of fire alarms and smoke detectors with varying standards set in place for varying industry verticals. However, the overall emphasis is on fire alarm systems that go off in time for workers to make an exit from the work floor and in turn prevent injury and loss of life. In the event of flaming fires wherein limited smoke is produced but the potential for harm to worker well-being is pronounced, ionization smoke detectors do meet OSHA's overriding concern for the safety of workers in the event of a workplace fire.

Additionally, it must be noted that OSHA stipulates the testing, maintenance, and replacement of all employee alarm systems when needed, including ionization smoke detectors. The onus is on the employer to set in place an emergency response program that prepares employees to coordinate an exit strategy in the event of a fire, as well as to keep up with the OSHA regulations described above.

To conclude, OSHA has specific requirements pertaining to all employee alarm systems, including fire alarms. These systems are set in place to alert employees to emergencies in the workplace, they meet recommended performance standards, and they are installed and maintained in a way that facilitates optimal effectiveness.


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