It goes without saying that warehouses and factories can be dangerous working environments if the right health and safety procedures aren’t properly put in place. This can also be said for fire safety.
Warehouses and factories typically have greater potential fire risks than, say, a domestic property. Thus, it is important to put policies in place to help reduce the risk of fires and other emergency situations.
Let’s take a look at the legislation
In England and Wales, fire safety is covered by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. In Scotland, requirements are set by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
For construction sites, enforcing this legislation falls to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). For all other premises, enforcement is the duty of local fire and rescue.
In all businesses, including warehouses and factories, it is the responsibility of the employer, owner, landlord, occupier and/or building manager to implement measures for compliance with fire safety regulations. These people are labelled as the ‘responsible person’, as set out in the relevant laws and legislation.
It is the duty of the ‘responsible person’ to carry out risk assessments, alert staff to potential risks, implement fire safety protocol, train staff in fire safety, and regularly review all of these processes.
Now that you know the legalities, let us take a look at some of the ways you can help prevent fire in factories and warehouses.
How can you minimise the risk and threat of fires in factories and warehouses?
- Install fire detection systems
The first step for preventing fire is to install appropriate fire detection systems. Fire call points, fire extinguishers, and fire alarm installation are essential parts of every warehouse and factory. These systems will allow you to detect fire, alert everyone in the building, evacuate safely, and put out smaller fires when necessary.
- Fire safety policies
Once you have the correct equipment and systems installed, you should implement an effective fire safety policy. Risk assessments should be carried out to determine and mitigate potential risks. You should then train all employees in what to do in the event of a fire or another emergency.
- Check your equipment and electrics
One key part of your fire safety policy should be to ensure all equipment and electrics are regularly checked, tested, and maintained. Faulty electrics can cause a fire to break out if not fixed. Also, malfunctioning equipment may fail to detect and alert you in the case of a fire.
- Declutter and dispose rubbish
Organise and declutter your inventory and stock so that it doesn’t touch anything that could ignite it, and ensure nothing blocks any emergency exits. Keeping your inventory to a minimum can also prevent fires from spreading quickly.
Once you have decluttered, or indeed if you accumulate rubbish on a daily basis, remember to dispose of your waste properly and regularly. It is good practice to place your bins at least a good few metres away from your building.
- Security measures
Although in many cases fires can be accidental, it is important to note that some fires may be caused by criminal damage. To mitigate these circumstances, you should install comprehensive security systems at your warehouse or factory, reducing the risk of arson.
- Dedicated smoking area
Factories and warehouses should not allow smoking inside. In some cases, it might also be dangerous to smoke too close to the building, for example if you manufacture and distribute things that could become explosive. In all situations, you should dedicate a specific area away from your building and waste disposal areas for your staff to smoke safely.
- Properly maintain machinery
In addition to inspecting and maintaining your fire detection systems, you should take the same precautions with your machinery and equipment that is used on an everyday basis. The people that undertake those inspections should have the necessary experience and qualifications stipulated by the manufacturer.
- Schedule routine inspections throughout the day
Depending on your risk assessments, and the appropriate actions, you should schedule routine inspections throughout the day at a frequency that is most effective for you. At the very least, trained staff should do a thorough inspection of the warehouse or factory at the end of the day before locking up to ensure that all electrical equipment is turned off, waste has been disposed of, and everything is properly stored ready to shut for the night.
Overall, there are many ways that you can prevent fire in warehouses and factories, adhering to the relevant legislation on your obligations as an employer or other ‘responsible person’.
With these things in place, you will not only be able to reduce the risk of fire in your workplace, but also be prepared in the event that an emergency situation does occur.