Protecting against fire in the warehouse

Fire in a busy warehouse is one of the most damaging things that can happen to a business. Not only does it pose a serious risk to any workers who may be affected by the flames, heat or smoke, but it can also lead to a serious loss of stock, damage to valuable equipment and major interruption to business operations and cashflow during any refurbishments that are required. Here are some ways to minimise the risk of a fire breaking out in your warehouse.

Be prepared

The law states that a full fire risk assessment must be carried out for all factories, warehouses and locations where people could be working. While you can carry this assessment out yourself, you must be able to prove that you have analysed everything correctly and taken all the necessary precautions. If you don’t have the time or skills to do it yourself, you can call in a professional risk assessor. Go online to download a fire risk assessment guide from a reputable website, such as www.gov.uk.

Assessing the risk

So, what should you look out for during a fire risk assessment? Key areas include identifying any hazards, such as piled up boxes and other flammable materials that could catch fire or cause an obstruction for anyone trying to leave the building quickly; faulty or overloaded electrical equipment, wires, power sockets etc. and inadequate storage of flammable liquids like petrol. Pay particular attention to areas where there are naked flames, sparks from operating machinery or heat sources such as microwaves, gas cookers or steam pipes.

Equipment

Keeping all equipment, machinery and vehicles in good working order is a crucial aspect of fire safety. Malfunctioning parts could catch on fire through friction-generated heat building up or a static charge. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding servicing and useful life-span and ensure that anyone operating machinery or equipment is fully trained with regular refresher sessions. Always make sure there is adequate ventilation for all equipment and machinery.

Behaviour

Encourage a culture of safety at work, especially around tasks that could have an enhanced risk of fire. Switch off and unplug equipment when it is not in use and always replace any safety catches or covers. Switch lights off and make sure you follow industry guidelines for storing dangerous substances such as chemicals and flammable liquids including cleaning fluids, solvents, oils, paints, thinners and adhesives. Clear away all packaging, wood shavings and off-cuts as quickly as possible as these can be extremely combustible if allowed to come into contact with a live spark or flame.

Surroundings

Look at the building and site itself to make sure it is as safe as possible against the frisk of fire. Check the materials used to line walls and ceilings and have them professionally analysed and replaced if necessary. Remember that heat rises and smoke can get through the smallest gaps, so pay particular attention to insulated ceiling tiles and any gaps in the floor. Make sure emergency exit routes are all unobstructed with clear directions and instructions for their use. Never keep fire doors wedged open and hold fire drills regularly to inform people what to do if a fire does break out. Make sure you have made provisions for all workers, including disabled colleagues, to leave the warehouse quickly and safely.



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