Fire and Security
Warehouse / Building Fires are a common occurrence, often causing widespread damage and resulting in serious business interruption. For many years’ arson/malicious ignition has been by far the leading known cause of fires in commercial and industrial premises, followed by fires of electrical origin.
You need to ensure that the premises are fully protected against intruders and malicious persons by the provision of appropriate physical and electronic security devices and systems commensurate with the risk and that systems are designed, installed and maintained to relevant British Standards and other recognised Codes.
Fire Safety Legislation
Fundamental to fire safety is the need to ensure that an effective risk assessment is undertaken in accordance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and similar regulations applying to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Where flammable liquids, gases or other dangerous materials are stored, a risk assessment should also be conducted in compliance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR).
- Provide clearly defined storage arrangements interspaced with aisles of adequate width to facilitate full premises access/inspection and adequate means of escape.
- Keep electrical switchgear, heating equipment and other plant clear of storage and provide Security as required.
- Keep goods minimum 0.5m clear of light fittings. Particular care needs to be taken when employing high intensity discharge lighting, for which the manufacturers’ guidance relating to safe lamp clearance distances and the provision of lamp containment barriers should be observed. Irrespective of the type of lighting installation, the positioning of luminaries within aisles, rather than directly above stock is best advice.
- Where sprinkler protection is installed, adequate clearance between sprinkler heads and stored goods should be maintained.
- Storage should be kept clear of fire doors and fire exits maintained unobstructed.
- Hazardous materials such as flammable liquids, oxidising agents and aerosol products should be suitably segregated as determined by the DSEAR risk assessment.
- Outside storage of idle pallets, plastic crates and other combustibles should be strictly controlled. Individual stacks should, where possible, be limited to a maximum height of 6m and storage kept at least 10m (or 1.5 x the stack height where greater) from buildings, and a minimum of 2m from the site boundary.
- Avoid storing combustible materials on loading docks and under external canopies out of working hours.
- Ensure that the electrical installation is correctly installed and maintained in accordance with BS7671: Requirements for Electrical Installations.
- Complete inspection and testing at periodic intervals by a competent electrical contractor, and remedy defects promptly.
- The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) recommends an initial inspection and testing period for warehouse premises of 5 years, with subsequent inspection and testing at intervals recommended by the inspector.
- Avoid all types of portable heating in favour of fixed heating systems.
- Fixed gas or oil fired heat exchange units should be provided with guard rails allowing a clear space of at least 1m from all surfaces of the appliance.
- Flue pipes should be kept clear of combustible materials throughout their length.
- Where flues pass through or are positioned adjacent to storage racking or mezzanine floors, suitable guards should be fitted.
Info courtesy of RiskSTOP Group Limited More information can be found on their website: www.riskstop.co.uk Version 0 20/12/13 BUL130 / DN3492380
- Remove waste materials at the end of the working day and transfer to external metal bins or skips, securely sited at least 10m from the buildings and at least 2m from the site boundary. Where this is not achievable, keep waste in lockable metal containers located as far away from buildings as practicable.
- Plastic wheelie bins should be secured in position as far away as possible from doors, windows, overhanging roofs and canopies, and from external combustible storage, or the bins retained within the building out of working hours.
Hot Work and Contractors’ Operations
Suitable management controls should be exercised over all contractors’ operations. Particular care should be taken with hot work such as welding, flame cutting, use of bitumen boilers and similar activities, for which an effective Permit to Work system should be employed.
Fork-Lift Truck Charging
Ideally, charging should be conducted in a separate fire compartment of a minimum 60 minutes fire rating or a separate detached building. Otherwise charging should be conducted in a designated area with a clear space of at least 2m around the charging equipment and the truck undergoing charge. Barrier rails or prominent floor markings to delineate the required clearance should be provided.
- Smoking must be prohibited throughout the premises in accordance with smoke free legislation.
- Care should be exercised over smoking in the open, particularly in stock or marshalling yards. Where required, an external smoking shelter should be provided which is neither enclosed nor substantially enclosed, in compliance with legislation.
- Any partial smoking enclosure should be of non-combustible construction, no materials of a combustible or flammable nature should be located within 6m of the smoking shelter, and suitable metal receptacles for discarded smoking materials provided.
Closedown inspections each evening should be made in which all areas of the warehouse are inspected and logged by a responsible person. This should include checking that accumulated waste materials have been removed, that plant and services have been isolated as required and that all fire and security protection systems are operative.
Fire Safety Procedures
- Establish fire safety procedures and train staff in the actions to be taken in the event of a fire.
- Develop a self-inspection programme to ensure that housekeeping disciplines are maintained and that fire protection measures and procedures are fully functional.
- Provide fire extinguishers in accordance with BS5306-8: Fire extinguishing installations and equipment on premises – Selection and positioning of portable fire extinguishers, and maintain under an annual service contract.
- Consideration may also need to be given to the installation of sprinklers, an automatic fire detection system linked to an approved alarm receiving centre or other forms of fire protection arising from a risk assessment. Where this is the case, consultation with Insurers is strongly recommended.
Information sourced from Darwin Clayton – www.darwinclayton.co.uk