Factories and Warehouses

Fire Safety in new and altered Factories and Warehouses are subject to the Building Regulations and the guidance for fire matters at this stage can be found on Fire Safety in New, Extended or Altered Buildings.

Once any business premises are occupied, fire precautions are controlled by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Fire Safety Guide for England and Wales

The Regulatory Reform Order requires Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) to be carried out. For factories and warehouses the government has issued a guide Guide 2 – Factories and warehouses. It gives advice on how to avoid fires and how to ensure people’s safety if a fire does start. It only applies to England and Wales and it does not set prescriptive standards but provides recommendations and guidance. Other fire risk assessment methods may be equally valid to comply with fire safety law.

The FRA guide is for all employers, managers, occupiers and owners of Factories and Warehouses. It helps you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire precautions needed. It may also be suitable where the premises adjoin other complexes, although co-operation with other managers will be necessary as part of an integrated risk assessment for the complex. Also, where you handle and store flammable materials and substances, the guide will help you take account of these in your risk assessment and help you determine the necessary precautions to minimise the likelihood of them being involved in a fire.

Fire Risks

Factories are usually considered a high fire risk. Fires usually occur as the result of an unforseen problem with a process or due to somebody’s carelessness. The level of risk varies depending on the processes being carried out and the number of occupants while the premises are occupied.

The six principle risks are,

  • Processes using flammable substances or machinery developing faults and causing a fire. Many times it is a pure accident but often it is the lack of maintenance, operator’s error or unauthorized repairs which results in a fire. Training and strict procedures will eradicate many possible fires and lower the risk of fire.
  • Carelessly discarded smoking materials especially if they come into contact with flammable materials. The flame is not always detected immediately. A lighted cigarette end might take a long time to ignite an item, at which time the premises could be unoccupied. Use signs and constantly broadcast the dangers to the staff. A no smoking policy should be adopted throughout the premises, with designated smoking areas for staff which are supervised closely.
  • Electrical Apparatus can be a source of fire if they have been subjected to misuse and electrical faults can cause fires if the devices have not been serviced regularly. All electrical equipment should be tested annually. Keep the staff informed of the possible dangers associated with the different types of equipment.
  • Kitchenettes or tea rooms can be a risk depending on equipment, especially if food that is cooking is left unattended. Full dining facilities and kitchens are a high risk and this can be lessened by having fully trained staff in attendance at all times.
  • A higher fire risk are store rooms and warehouses because large quantities of flammable goods may be stored with limited supervision. Housekeeping and ensuring that storerooms are kept as tidy as possible will reduce this risk. An added danger in warehouses is that they are they are often large, undivided areas and if fire starts it will spread uncontrolled unless separatations are installed. Ensure the dangers are discussed at all training sessions.
  • Tradesmen on the premises, especially if they use blow lamps, gas torches, angle grinders, etc, can cause fires. Ensure a high degree of supervision with suitable fire fighting equipment available during and after their presence. Give the area they have been working in a through inspection and make sure no hot spots or small fires have been missed.

Training

During training sessions as well as detailing and practicing fire procedures time should be devoted to emphasising simple fire precautions in an attempt to stop fires happening. Not only is fire training in most premises required under law it also makes sense, half an hour spent can save lives and may prevent a fire in the first place. For further information go to Staff fire safety training.

Fire Risk management

Commissioning a fire safety risk management survey in addition to a Fire Risk Assessment will help to reduce any consequential fire losses should a fire occur. A simple action like dividing your stock into two fire-separated warehouses would mean if a fire should happen you will have 50% of your stock left to carry on trading . Another example is to produce duplicate copies of your business records and storing them in separate building away from your offices. Many times consequential fire losses are not considered in Fire Risk Assessments and can be the cause of companies being forced into bankruptcy after a fire.

Arson Prevention

Arson is the single most common cause of fire in business premises and 45% of all serious fires are a result of arson. Much of this is not targeted and the vast majority of arson attacks are down to opportunist vandalism. Apart from the need to comply with the law the Responsible Person has a duty to reduce this risk. See also How to Combat Arson

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March 17, 2011[Last updated: November 5, 2018]

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