IVI – RICO Sicherheitstechnik AG creates a secure environment at the Institute for Virology and Immunology
Large-scale project with gas-tight butterfly valves protects humans and animals. The Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI) is the reference laboratory for diagnosis, monitoring and control of selected farm animal diseases and highly contagious animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza. The Swiss Rabies Centre and thus the monitoring of rabies is also located at the IVI. Moreover, the emergence of new diseases in animals and their potential for transmission to humans is researched at the IVI, while new vaccines and sera for animals are tested for approval. The IVI, with its two sites at Mittelhäusern and the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern, is affiliated to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO.
If there is a suspected case, the Institute receives samples and diagnoses possible diseases. A safe working environment is all-important here and the legal requirements are very strict when it comes to protecting humans, animals and the environment. Viruses and other pathogens must never leave the laboratories and enter the environment.
The building envelope of the Institute corresponds to security level 4, which is the highest security level for facilities in a biological environment. Very elaborate and reliable systems are used to ensure this level. The permanent risk potential does not allow any deviation and so technical, structural and organisational security measures must be strictly adhered to and comply with national and international regulations.
“The safety measures are close to those of a nuclear power plant,” emphasises Peter Fluri, Head of Technology and Safety Officer at the State Institute. For this reason, for example, staff access to the facilities is via airlocks – this allows a constant negative pressure to be maintained in the laboratories while preventing potentially contaminated air from escaping the buildings. The ventilation system’s gas-tight shut-offs are another effective protective measure. For this purpose, gas-tight butterfly valves from RICO Sicherheitstechnik AG have already been in successful service for 23 years – and are now being replaced successively by newer products from the company.
Structural and technical safety measures have the highest priority
One of the most important systems for a safe laboratory is a well-functioning ventilation system with the appropriate filter levels which prevents viruses from escaping from the zones and thus protects the environment, humans and animals.
In the laboratories and animal rooms, the entire breathing air is exchanged on average ten times per hour, with a remarkable 55,000 m³ of air per hour flowing through the ducts. The Institute is divided into 94 separate ventilation zones in which so-called HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air filters) are used. The HEPA filters ensure reliable filtration in the air supply and exhaust, as they are able to filter even the smallest particles and aerosols to which viruses and other pathogens can attach themselves. The filters are each fitted with 100% gas-tight butterfly valves upstream and downstream, which are manually closed during filter cleaning so that the air flow is temporarily interrupted. Since the filter cleaning is carried out with formalin gas, the material of the valves is very decisive. RICO supplied these in hard-anodised aluminium, as this means that they can also withstand critical gases.
Another criterion of the Institute was that the tightness of the butterfly valves can be checked when installed – by means of a hand pump and pressure gauge, this can be done quickly and easily via the so-called PERFEKT system of RICO butterfly valves. These prerequisites are essential for optimum working conditions and for the health of staff and animals. But not only the daily work routines must be integrated into a safety concept. The prevention concept for critical situations determines the practice of the Institute’s technicians. For emergency situations, complex systems are installed to protect the population and the environment. Because if contaminated air enters the immediate environment in an emergency, this can not only have massive economic consequences, but also put people and animals in danger. The ability to seal off certain areas gas-tight is therefore an important factor.
RICO’s gas-tight butterfly valves play a major role in realising safety requirements: they are installed in the ventilation system of the entire IVI building – of which 311 are manual and 15 automatic valves. The latter are installed at the entrances or exits of the building and ultimately prevent the flow of contaminated air to the outside. The manual butterfly valves, on the other hand, control the flow of air in the ventilation ducts inside and ensure absolute gas-tightness when closed. Protection is also maintained in the event of malfunctions: “If there’s a power failure, for example, the automatic butterfly valves close automatically to prevent negative environmental influences,” explains Fluri.
The project scope requires a professional partner
Although the previous valves were still functional due to preventive maintenance, the Institute decided to replace them before possible failures in order to be on the safe side and to be at the cutting edge of technology. Thanks to the positive experience, RICO’s solutions have been relied on here as well. “One of the main reasons for continuing the cooperation with RICO is the reliability of the product,” emphasises Fluri. RICO knows about the high safety requirements that the valves have to fulfil and for this reason enjoys a high status at the Institute. A decisive point for the implementation of the project was also that the new products were supplied identical in construction to the old ones. The advantage of this is that the valves could thus be replaced quickly and easily, no further structural measures were necessary and the Institute did not have to fear any critical situation. “In a project of this size, it’s a decisive factor for us that there is physical proximity between the Institute and the supplier,” adds Fluri. If difficulties arise during installation or commissioning, RICO’s service technicians are on site immediately and can support the IVI team of technicians. “Our technicians know the systems installed here in depth, so there’s profound know-how – also with regard to the handling of the butterfly valves,” notes Peter Fluri. The regular valve tests and revisions are carried out by the Institute’s own staff, and RICO’s service technicians are always on hand to answer questions. The IVI leaves the necessary repairs of the automatic valves entirely to RICO’s specialists – this is the only way to maintain 100 percent functionality for a long time. According to the technical manager, the cooperation between IVI and RICO proves to be a win-win situation, as all decisive criteria could be fulfilled. “We appreciate RICO as a reliable partner with whose help we can continue to provide safety for our employees and the environment. This will enable us to continue to perform our tasks at the Institute safely for the next 23 years,” Fluri mentions in conclusion.
RICO Sicherheitstechnik AG, based in Herisau, Switzerland, has been developing and selling various components for explosion isolation since 1988. With the help of high-quality products such as explosion isolation valves (VENTEX®) and explosion isolation slide valves, the company secures plants and protects industrial facilities from the spread of explosions. The solutions are mainly used in the pharmaceutical industry, chemical/petrochemical industry, research laboratories, silos, mills, dryers and separators as well as extraction systems. Furthermore, the specialists’ portfolio also includes butterfly valves that can shut off ventilation ducts 100% gas-tight and offer the rare advantage of being able to easily check the tightness when installed. Possible areas of application include the pharmaceutical industry (e.g. insulators), nuclear power plants, military/civil defence, chemicals/petrochemicals, research laboratories and hospitals. Safety always comes first. Reliability, experience, innovation and flexibility are characteristics that distinguish RICO Sicherheitstechnik AG just as much as the consideration of individual wishes or the development of special designs. A team of experts also advises and supports customers in the selection of suitable components. RICO Sicherheitstechnik AG is certified according to ISO 9001:2008 and ATEX Directive 94/9/EC In the field of explosion protection, an ATEX type test is carried out for each component under a wide range of process conditions. The company also carries out various quality tests – some of which are customer-specific – for the gas-tight butterfly valves. These are based on the requirements of the respective application. As a matter of principle, every single product at RICO Sicherheitstechnik AG undergoes final testing. This principle has guaranteed the highest quality for maximum safety requirements for over 25 years.