Fire Safety in Warehouses

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The past few years have seen the sizes and the number of warehousing facilities increases considerably. This is especially the case in transport hub region or areas adjacent to major motorway junctions. Additionally, the items and the materials stored in these warehouses are quite varied; from books and CDs to all sorts of electronics and engineering products.

This has meant that a wide variety of activities are carried out in these facilities. Warehouses facilitate packaging of products (such as shrink wrapping). Furthermore, there is the movement of products within and outside the facilities. All of these activities present fire risks owing to the immense potential for incidents to take place when fire safety is lacking. This calls for rigorous fire protection services and systems to be in place to prevent an incident of fire in the first place.

On a whole, the frequency and number of fire incidences taking place in warehouses are quite low. However, due to the enormous sizes of these facilities and volume of combustible materials in storage, when a fire incident occurs, they end up being major conflagrations that are a challenge to the firefighters and rescue personnel to manage. Consequently, such fire incidences are characterised by heavy property loses.

Furthermore, warehouse operators need to keep in mind the fact that the constant change of products stored, the change of storage modes and the change of overall fire hazards in typically a short period of time, fire risk assessment should be conducted on a constant basis. A continuous fire risk assessment process enables facility operators to identify all the changes to the overall fire risk and thereafter make the necessary changes that are needed as associated fire safety strategy.

It is important for warehouse operators to be keen on the following activities with regards to operating their warehouses.

#1. Ensure compliance with all fire safety legislation

A) Install sprinklers and any other fire suppression devices or systems.

B) Ensure physical segregation of the warehouse facility from other operations such as manufacturing activities taking place onsite.

C) Staff training regarding the best and proper way to react to events of fire outbreaks including how to shut down the warehouse equipment such as conveyors.

#2. Housekeeping

A) A warehouse premise should be kept orderly and clean at all times. Waste materials and goods should never be stored designated clear areas and in the aisles.

B) You should reduce the amount of combustible material in the open warehouse. Any bulk supplies of these materials should be stored in a separate fire compartment in the warehouse or separate building altogether.

#3. Fire safety management

A) You should closely work with the fire and rescuer service right from the planning stage. This is important especially in cases when planning storage at a high level. The services need to inspect the site and establish the extent and location of water supplies in the locality. Furthermore, they will advise you on matters of automated fixed fire suppressions devices and or system to install.

B) The adoption of comprehensive fire safety management, extensive and adequate staff training, and use of appropriate safety procedures that are embraced and observed by all staff members cannot be over-emphasised enough.

#4. Staff training and procedures

A) Warehouse operators should establish the proper procedures to follow when raising alarm as well as summoning the fire and rescue service as part of the staff training.

B) They should also conduct induction and refresher training courses on how best to use the fire extinguisher and what to do after discovering a fire and or when responding to fire alarms.

#5. Lift trucks

Lift trucks are typically used in warehouses to move items around. They may petrol or diesel powered, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)-powered or electrically driven. Either way, there is a huge fire hazard that arises from their use. Staff making use of these machines should be properly trained on how to use them.

Importantly, the tracks used should be safe for use in any hazardous zone environments identified during the DSEAR assessment.