Warehouse & Self Storage Fire Safety Tips
A warehouse fire is one of the most costly fires that can occur, but unfortunately incidents of these fires are still too frequent. Warehouses are at a high risk of fire due to the fact that they characteristically contain large quantities of flammable goods, including wrappings and boxes.
The layout of warehouses is often such that the fire can spread quickly across a large area and there may be warehouse equipment that could start a fire if proper fire safety procedures are not followed.
Warehouse fires can not only put lives in danger but can ruin businesses. They often cost thousands of pounds and can disrupting output, so it is worth spending time on a plan of action to protect your investment.
Be Fire Safety Informed
To protect your investment and your warehouse staff from fire there are a number of steps you can take. Firstly, premises should be designed with fire safety in mind. New warehouses or altered warehouses must adhere to the Building Regulations so they are built to conform to the latest safety requirements.
Even if your warehouse is designed to limit the risk of fire spreading, there are still lots of safety steps you are expected to take to ensure the safety of your business and its staff. Some of these steps are defined in government guidelines that are downloadable from the Department of Communities and Local Government
website. Other steps are simply recommended as best practice.
Governmental advice on fire safety for warehouses and factories is the most comprehensive document to read if you hold responsibility for a warehouse. It contains tips and guidance for preventing fires, complying with fire safety law and what action to take if you do find yourself dealing with a warehouse fire. Every warehouse owner, manager, occupier and designated fire safety staff should be aware of this document.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment
Firstly, you should carry out a fire safety assessment
to identify any problem areas or potential issues. Your fire assessment should cover three main areas so that you not only limit the risk of a fire but also limit the damage caused by fire. The third area concerns how you should respond if a fire were to occur.
So you need to identify the fire hazards, identify people who are at risk and take steps to limit the risk.
Keep in mind that a fire needs three elements to start: a source of ignition, fuel and oxygen. You can limit the risk of a fire starting in the first place by ensuring that these elements never come together.
The source of ignition and the fuel will depend on your business, or in other words, what stock is held in storage at the warehouse and how you use it.
You should carry out your assessment formally, not hap-hazardly, and be sure to record your findings. You should also review your findings annually to take in to account any changes.
Use the results of your assessment to create your fire safety procedure and then inform and train your staff.
During your assessment, consider how you can prevent a fire from starting in the first place. Making sure that a source of ignition cannot come into contact with fuel is important for protecting your warehouse staff and its contents. Look carefully at your storage and consider how they can be stored safely. Remember that badly stored goods can prevent fire safety equipment like sprinklers from working properly. Or they could become an obstruction to a safe escape through fire exits.
If there are any dangerous substances, you’ll need to take account of these too. Staff should be fully trained to handle them. Make sure that they’re stored correctly and keep them to a minimum if you can.
You should double-check equipment, heating, electrics and warehouse vehicles such as forklift trucks. It also goes without saying that smoking should be banned indoors and limited to designated, safe areas outside and away from harm.
You warehouse should be equipped with up-to-date fire safety equipment so that staff can tackle fires. There should be one water based fire extinguisher to cover 200m2 of floor space. In your fire assessment, you should have identified what classification of fire could start and you should use the appropriate extinguisher based on those conclusions.
In addition, your premises should ideally be fitted with a sprinkler system. These devices may not prevent a fire from starting but they can prove very useful in slowing down the fire and helping limit the damage.
It is your responsibility to ensure that this equipment is kept in working order at all times, after all fire safety equipment is an essential part of keeping your staff and premises safe. There are many options for fire fighting equipment that can be installed or which comes as part of the existing structure of your warehouse. These will depend on what the fire risks are, the size of your premises and other factors.
When it comes to fire escape routes, the means of escape needs to conform to certain fire safety levels. You must make sure that escape routes are suitable and that there’s access to them at all times. They should be appropriate to the number of people that would be at risk if a fire should start. The escape route should be made of appropriate material too – for example, wooden structures would not provide a suitable means of escape if there were a fire. You also have to assess any staff that might need extra assistance in an emergency – do any of your staff or potential visitors have impaired mobility?
Exits need to be clearly signposted a regular intervals and the route should be lit, even if there were a power failure due to the fire.
So now take a look at your warehouse and ask yourself how a fire could start, whether it would be able to spread, how many would be affected, and whether they could escape.
It is important that you keep up with the latest advice and guidelines on warehouse fire safety, which will tell you about current legislation and provide you with tools such as fire safety checklists.
Liaise with the Fire Service
It’s also a very good idea to have regular communications with your local fire service so that they can assess the situation and plan how they might tackle a blaze at your warehouse. Liaising with the fire and rescue department can save them time if a fire starts, because they’ll have information that may help them do their job. You should inform them of any combustible materials, features of the building that might pose a risk such as asbestos, water supplies and areas where fire might spread undetected such as underground vaults. You should also ensure that fire engines can gain access to the warehouse at all times.
With these steps, you should be equipped to deal with fire and hopefully prevent a fire from starting. Otherwise, this information will be useful in helping you keep the damage to a minimum – it may save your business or even save lives.
You can find more information about warehouse fire safety for factories and warehouses at the government’s Department of Communities and Local Government website
or download the PDF
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