Managing risks and ensuring compliance – fire protection in high risk manufacturing
The impact of fire in a manufacturing facility is often far-reaching – having the potential to cause injuries to teams, significant damage to property and considerable loss of inventory. Often, damage to machinery and buildings and loss of inventory can cause a significant period of downtime, and is incredibly costly to reconcile.
This risk of fire is clearly evidenced in the nearly 2000 fires occurring in industrial manufacturing premises in 2019 . In addition, regularly reported fires – such as the fire at an industrial estate in Salford in April 2020 and, more recently, at a fibreglass manufacturing facility in Sunderland in July 2020 – bring fire risk to the fore.
Regulatory requirements for fire safety
As non-domestic premises, manufacturing facilities are obliged to meet the requirements as outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 .
These legal requirements act as a minimum specification for ensuring compliance and protecting teams and property from the risk of fire. The primary requirements for meeting regulations include:
- Establishing liability for fire safety by assigning a ‘responsible person’, who is required to carry out fire risk assessments and oversee all fire safety measures within a facility.
- Conducting and recording regular fire risk assessments, to identify and remedy hazards and use the findings to fuel an emergency plan.
- Advising employees – and any temporary or contract works – of the risks identified and the measures implemented to reduce these risks.
- Educating employees surrounding fire safety precautions in the workplace.
- Regularly maintaining fire protection equipment and emergency exits.
Managing common risks
Manufacturing facilities are vulnerable to a variety of different fire risks. This can make it challenging to keep teams and property safe, whilst meeting regulatory requirements.
So, what are the common risks and how can they be managed?
Materials, such as raw materials, finished products and packaging, are often stored for extended periods of time at manufacturing facilities. These are often highly combustible and pose significant fire risks.
As such, stored materials should be kept away from any ignition sources, to decrease the risk of setting alight. In addition, waste materials should be disposed of immediately to prevent contact with ignition sources.
Outdoor storage facilities should be maintained, to ensure they are kept tidy, and be protected using fire detection equipment. This will ensure teams are notified promptly should a fire break out. Any material piles stored outside should be a minimum of two metres away from buildings and other material piles.
Highly flammable substances
Highly flammable substances, such as Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) and Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPGs), are commonplace at manufacturing facilities. To mitigate their associated risks, storage amounts should be kept to a minimum. The total amount should not exceed 70kg and should be stored apart from combustible materials, in a well-ventilated area.
Vehicles and machinery
Vehicles and machinery pose a significant number of hazards, from overheating or refuelling. Regular maintenance and cleaning of all vehicles and machinery is a key factor in reducing the risk of fire. In addition, regular portable appliance testing (PAT) is required to ensure compliance.
Electrical vehicles (EVs), hybrid electrical vehicles (HEVs) and fork lifts create a number of additional fire safety risks. Charging points for fork lifts have the potential to cause sparks, which could lead to a fire. To reduce the risk of fire, charging points should be placed in a well-ventilated area, away from flammable materials. If this isn’t possible, charging points should be positioned against fire-resistant walls to reduce the risk of fire spread. Often powered by lithium-ion batteries, EVs and HEVs pose a number of significant risks. As such, regular maintenance of these vehicles and installing fire protection equipment is key to reducing the risk of fire.
The spread of fire and smoke
If fire and smoke spreads, it can cause a substantial amount of damage. To reduce the risk of spread, buildings and separate areas of a facility and their roofs should have a space in between them. Or, if this is not possible, areas and roofs can be divided using fire doors, fire-resistant walls and floors or non-combustible board.
With around 70,000 deliberate fires occurring in 2019 in the UK , arson is a clear and frequent cause of fire. The risk at manufacturing facilities can be reduced by securing a facility from the outside, storing materials inside the building and ensuring the access to restricted and monitored. In addition, encouraging teams to report suspicious behaviour is key.
For more information on Fire Protection in Manufacturing Facilities or on how to ensure compliance, or to book your free site survey, visit www.fireshieldsystemsltd.co.uk.