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Fire Risk Assessment In Warehouses and Factories

Establishing a business is a task in itself, and as the years pass on, the challenges that an organization has to face only keep on increasing. Companies conduct hundreds of meetings to plan their long-term growth strategies, but how often do they reconsider their safety practices?

Ever since the end of 2019, the world has noticed a horrific pandemic that brought the world to a standstill. Companies suffered enormous losses as their supply chains were disrupted completely and the produced goods perished in their storage facilities.

Even though the production started again some time in mid-2020, it came with unprecedented restrictions and uncertainties. Manufacturers preferred overproduction fearing yet another lockdown, and stocked their storage facilities as much as possible, turning a blind eye towards the safety norms.

Desperate times require desperate measures, but that shouldn’t be at the cost of sacrificing safety. Storage facilities are always prone to fire hazards, and caution is necessary to avoid loss of property and life. Hence, it is crucial to incorporate Fire Risk Assessments periodically in warehouses and factories, to avoid possible fire hazards.

Fire Risk Assessment in Warehouses and Industries

A fire risk assessment is an organized and methodical examination of your premises, the activities carried on, and the odds of a fire starting and causing harm to property and life.

  • Step 1 – Identify and pinpoint fire hazards

Depending on the kind of products you manufacture and store, the fire hazards associated may vary. 

For instance, if your products contain flammable chemicals, you should be cautious while storing those chemicals. 

On 4th November 2020, a similar tragic incident occurred in a cotton warehouse located outside Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where 12 people lost their lives to an accidental fire. The cause of the fire was identified to be the stored chemicals needed for this cotton factory. If the potential risk was identified and tackled, this tragedy could have been avoided.

  • Step 2 – Identify potential sources of fire hazards

If we carefully observe our surroundings, we will find many items that can be a potential source of fires. The most common objects in a warehouse that can act as a source of fire are:

  1. Cigarettes and matches – Improperly disposed-off cigarette butts and matches can be a source of the fire. Employees must be educated of the risk a single match can impose on the entire facility.
  2. Extractor fans – The fans designed to dissipate heat may get clogged, resulting in poor performance. Over time, this can cause a fire. Preventative Maintenance must be carried out to avoid this problem. Items that obscure the ventilation of machines must be moved out of the way.
  3. Electricals – Faulty electrical wires can lead up to a fire. Due care must be taken while constructing the warehouse. The open wire must be fixed or replaced. 

A fire erupted in a warehouse owned by an E-Commerce company located in Delhi. The fire consumed 1/3rd of the storage facility and was reported to be due to an electrical short-circuiting. Although there were no casualties, the company suffered substantial financial loss.

  1. Lighting – Warehouses often have openings to allow in natural sunlight. If this light is reflected from a shiny surface and concentrated to a smaller area, it will generate a lot of heat, eventually leading to a fire.
  2. Stored goods – It isn’t a surprise that a warehouse will be packed with lots of goods. A fire could be a risk depending on factors like storage density, space between pallets, and the type of racks used.
  3. Packing – Packing materials like foam, paper, and wood immediately catch fire. Since storage boxes contain a great deal of packing material, these can flame the intensity of the fire very quickly.
  4. Flammable liquids – Many times, machined metal parts are dipped in oils before storing them, to avoid corrosion. Such factors are rarely considered and pose a potential threat for starting fire hazards.

Although these sources can be identified and nullified at an organizational level, it is better to get this done by a professional who can implement a proper Fire Risk Assessment.

Once you have successfully identified the hazards, the next step is to work on eliminating the fire-causing factors. In real-world scenarios, it can be impossible to eliminate some sources. In such cases, actions must be taken to reduce the risk as much as possible.

  • Step 3 – Identify which safety systems are best suited for your warehouse.

Depending on the type of warehouse and the item it stores, a well-functioning, highly responsive fire safety system must be incorporated.

The most commonly used safety system is the sprinkler system.

According to this report, between 2007-2011, wet pipe sprinklers have successfully put out 84% of the fires and as a result, controlled damage cost by over 60%

Apart from this, fire extinguishers must be placed in areas that are of apparent danger. 

Depending on the type of product /process, there is a variety of fire extinguishers available. The role of this system is crucial as it acts as the last resort to tackle this fire mishap. An efficient safety system warns everyone and quickly acts to contain the spread of the fire.

Fire Risk Assessment in Warehouses and Factories – Factors to Consider

The fire safety audit not only emphasizes preventive measures but also what actions must be taken after implementing those measures.

1.Evaluate the outcomes

To implement the best possible fire safety system, you should first evaluate high-risk areas and areas where smoke accumulates, through modeling.

2.Create an Evacuation Plan

Once you have identified potential fire and smoke areas, you can now devise an evacuation plan which ensures all the employees get out safely, as early as possible.

3.Increase Awareness about Fire Safety

If we consider a small company, the owner or the manager should shoulder the responsibility to take charge in situations of fire. For a large company, the senior manager should take control. However, every employee must be educated about fire hazards, their cause, and their prevention, and an overall atmosphere of taking fire hazards seriously must be developed.

4.Build Documentation

Every single event of a fire, even a near miss, and every modification in the system should be documented. This record helps you make sound decisions in the future and implement the right changes.

Endnote

Any warehouse, whether new or existing, which is about to begin or expand, should get a fire safety assessment done and install a robust fire safety system. 

Since this is a crucial aspect of safety, it is better to get in touch with experts who have been in this field for years. SHM Group is one such industry leader that specializes in manufacturing fire safety systems and fire extinguishers. We understand the importance of safety, and we believe in providing the best solutions to each client.

Warehouses are an indispensable and integral aspect of the logistics chain. It is hence, necessary to safeguard them properly, to avoid damage to goods and property. Whether for eCommerce storage or an automotive storehouse, it is necessary to implement preventive fire safety measures beforehand and conduct regular fire risk audits to ensure the health and safety of products and people!

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