The forestry industry operates in an environment filled with highly combustible materials, such as wood, dry vegetation and sawdust. As a result, businesses within the industry are extremely susceptible to fire risk.
James Mountain, sales and marketing director, Fire Shield Systems Ltd, explores the prevalent fire risks for the forestry industry, sharing his tips for mitigating these and ensuring safety.
In the forestry industry, wood is a fundamental material for continued business practice – but it is also highly flammable. As a result, having the right protection measures in place is essential in effectively reducing fire risk.
As fires within the industry become more and more common, the safety concern continues to heighten.
So, what are the risks facing the industry, and how can businesses act to protect the safety of their teams and their assets?
The prominent fire risks
- Harsh environment – as the industry is largely based outdoors, operations are often subject to harsh weather conditions. Weathers such as strong winds and high temperatures can heighten fire risks, as they can hasten fire ignition and spread.
- Vehicles – vehicles and machinery are essential for the continued operations of the forestry industry, and these can often transport large quantities of flammable fuels and oils, which can ignite any surrounding combustible materials if not monitored closely.
- Debris build-up – as vehicles and machines are typically in operation around sawdust and other debris, it can cause clogging in exhausts and ventilation systems, which can lead to overheating.
- Highly combustible materials – by its nature, the forestry industry operates around highly flammable materials, including wood, dry chops, chaff and straw.
What can you do to reduce the risks?
Create a forest management plan
The Forestry Commission highlights the steps you should take to develop a fire management plan to reduce fire risk. This plan should include the objectives you are looking to achieve (eg ‘to decrease the number of fires over a set period of time’), the risks faced on your site, any fuel sources, and any details of people who could be harmed in the event of a fire.
Your forest management plan will help you to identify all of the potential risks you are facing and provide guidance for the measures you can put in place to mitigate these.
Regular maintenance of vehicles and machinery can help to identify any potential issues before they result in heightened fire risk. If left unmonitored, certain issues can result in overheating and, in turn, lead to fire. Regular maintenance can also help to avoid the build-up of dust and other debris, ensuring it is removed on a frequent basis.
Vegetation should be controlled with the intention of preventing the build-up of fuel. It is important to create a pattern in vegetation to reduce fire risk and enable the fire to be extinguished effectively.
In existing woodlands, you can reduce fire risk through vegetation treatments, including thinning, felling and linking high-risk areas with naturally fire-resistant features, such as rivers or wetlands.
When preparing new work areas in forests and woodlands, or restructuring an existing work area, fire risk can be reduced through use of fire resilient vegetation, which can support fire breaks or fire belts.
Create fire breaks and fire belts
Fire belts and fire breaks can act as a buffer to stop or slow a fire’s propagation. Fire breaks refer to gaps in vegetation (or other combustible materials) and fire belts are strips of woodland made from fire-resistant species. Both fire breaks and fire belts aim to reduce the risk of fire spreading.
Fire breaks and belts should form an interconnected network to surround a particularly high-risk area of woodland. They can be situated at critical points, used to prevent rapid fire spreading or located alongside other fire-resistant features, such as rivers or wetlands.
Choose the right suppression solution
Every forest is different – in purpose, size and shape. To reduce fire risk effectively, selecting the right fire detection and suppression solution is key. Your forest management plan should help you to achieve this.
For more advice or support in selecting the best fire detection and suppression solution for your business, visit www.fireshieldsystemsltd.co.uk or call 0800 975 5767.