Do you meet regulations for fire codes?
Fires in industrial, commercial, and manufacturing facilities lead to billions of dollars in losses every year. The majority of these losses come in the form of property damage, loss of inventory, and loss of productivity. But there’s also the loss of life, injuries, medical costs and claims, and settlements.
While it would be impossible to keep every workplace fire from occurring, there are steps that can be taken to diminish the damage. Many plants must follow fire codes and regulations designed to keep fires from growing out of control. But there are also steps you can take to keep the fires from happening in the first place.
Occupational Health and Safety list five leading causes of industrial fires and explosions and how to prevent them. We’ll take a quick look at what can cause fires at the job site and what steps you can take to make your facility or plant safer. So many fire dangers can be contained with a little care and attention.
Five leading causes of industrial facility fires
Combustible Dust – When reduced to dust form, almost any material can catch fire. Never was this more apparent than the investigation that went into a sugar refinery explosion in Georgia in 2008. The fire killed 10 people, injured dozens more, and devastated the local economy.
Although old equipment caused the initial spark, it was the dust in the bagging and storage areas of the plant. It took nearly a week to fully extinguish the major parts of the fire. The building was several decades old and the older construction certainly didn’t help matters.
Hot Work – Welding, torch cutting, soldering, brazing, and more are responsible for workplace fires on a yearly basis, although most are containable. However, sparks from this kind of work can travel close to 35 feet. If flammable materials – including dust – are nearby, a fire can quickly engulf the area.
Flammable liquids or gasses – Obviously, anything with the word “flammable” in it is going to be cause for concern. Still, improper storage or usage is one of the leading causes of fires in the United States. Many of these accidents stem from workers not knowing what liquids or gasses they’re working with or around.
Machinery and Equipment – As we mentioned before, the dust didn’t start the fire at the sugar refinery, it was ignited by older, faulty equipment. We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your equipment well maintained and serviced. Equipment in disrepair can cause sparks that could ignite flammable or hazardous materials, including fluids within the machinery.
Electrical Issues – Similar to old equipment, poorly wired circuit boxes, transfer stations, and even outlets can be the cause of a workplace fire. Unfortunately, these issues aren’t easy to see unless you order a complete electrical audit. It’s also important to mark where shocking hazards are located.
So many of these issues can be addressed by regular maintenance, systems that remove dust from the air, and other precautions. By being aware of your surroundings, clearly marking dangerous materials, and consistent safety training, you’ll keep your facility safer and provide a better work environment.
Fire codes and Regulations
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has an exhaustive list of fire codes and standards, safety systems, and methods for fire tests, suppression, and even tests for material flammability. In addition, you’ll want to make sure your facility currently meets fire code requirements for your local and state jurisdictions.
Are fire escapes and routes clearly marked in your facility? Are exit signs and emergency lighting installed at proper heights and illuminated for easy visibility? And are the routes clear of debris and obstacles that can impede leaving the area? Make sure all doors, ladders, and other exit apparatus are in good working order.
In addition to making sure your portable extinguishers are fully charged and regularly serviced, you’ll want to make sure you have other systems in place where dangerous materials are being used or stored. Carbon dioxide, dry and wet chemicals, hybrid gasses, and aerosol fire extinguishing systems are available.
When was the last time your sprinkler systems were serviced? Depending on the type of sprinkler system at your facility, inspection intervals will vary. In addition to inspections, regular testing will also ensure your sprinkler systems are operating as they should.
Fire alarms won’t do you much good if they don’t work. Regular inspections are necessary to make sure your fire alarms are in good working order. Fire alarms and other types of alarms (carbon monoxide and other gasses) give workers and other people additional time to get to safety or to begin fire suppression activities.
Work with local first responders
Hopefully, you’ll never need their help. But when that time comes, you’ll want to make sure the fire marshall, local fire departments, and other first responders are familiar with your current fire suppression systems. A list of materials, chemicals, or hazardous gasses and where they’re located will also save valuable time if an event does take place.
Are you unsure of your current fire alarms, sprinklers, and processes if a fire does occur at your plant or facility? What steps can your employees take to help contain or suppress the flames to keep the damage to a minimum or prevent catastrophe? The answers to these questions can save you a lot of money, injuries, or the loss of life.