The number of warehouses in key transport hubs and areas adjacent to highway junctions have been on the rise over the recent past. These warehouses are also larger than before, which can be attributed to the increase in demand for storage spaces. Some of the main items/materials stored in warehouses include books, engineering products, furniture, and small electronics among others. These warehouses will also be a host to a wide range of activities ranging from charging electric vehicles to shrink wrapping. In the absence of a fire safety management system, some of these activities can result in catastrophic fires.
Although the number of fires reported in warehouses may be low, the volume of combustible material stored and the size of the warehouse pose a big challenge for fire and rescue services should there be a fire. This can result in disruption of business processes, continuity, and significant property loss.
Knowing the risks involved and especially with the mode of storage, items in storage, and associated fire hazards can help prevent a fire incident. Fire safety should be an ongoing exercise to ensure any fire hazards are identified and addressed when necessary. Outlined below are some of the most common, yet essential activities that can help reduce the risks of fires in warehouses.
1. Fire Safety Legislation Compliance
- Install fixed fire suppression and sprinkler systems
- Segregate warehouses from manufacturing areas and any other operations on site
- Train staff on how to react in the event of a fire. This includes shutting down conveyor belts safely and evacuating from the premise.
a. Always keep the premise clean and orderly at all times. Waste materials should be removed from designated clear areas and aisles immediately
b. Combustible packaging materials should either be kept in a separate fire compartment, with bulk supplies kept in a separate building. If any of these need to be kept in the open, they then should be kept in a minimalistic manner
3. Fire Safety Management
- Proper fire risk management and mitigation measures should be undertaken from the planning stage when the warehouse is set up. A site survey may be needed by the fire and rescue service to ensure the site is accessible and with easy access to water services. Fire suppression systems and water sprinklers will also need to be installed on site as well
- Ensure the warehouse is adequately staffed, ensure the staff are well trained and have the appropriate fire safety procedures in place. The team need to know just what to do in case of a fire, hence an awareness of the same will be required. These should help provide a comprehensive fire safety management system within the warehouse
4. Staff Training and Procedures
- Ensure there is an established system, and procedure into which the staff can raise the alarm or have the system summon the fire and rescue service automatically. The staff also need to be trained on how to handle most of the fire suppression systems on site to help reduce damage caused by fires
- Periodic refresher and induction training courses are also recommended for the staff or employees. They need to be trained on the procedure to follow in case of a fire, and how to use a fire extinguisher as well. Awareness is also needed on how to discover a fire and how to respond to a fire alarm
5. Lift Trucks
Lift trucks and pallet trucks are the most common mode of transport in the warehouse. These trucks run on either diesel, petrol, liquefied petroleum gas, or batteries which make the risk of fires even higher. Since these trucks cannot be avoided, it is advisable to hire trained personnel to operate them or have your staff trained on how to use them as well.
Most lift trucks are designed to be safe in the warehouse, and especially the hazard zones. Ensure they are serviced regularly and assessed by DSEAR to ensure safe use and improved safety for all.