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How to Conduct a Fire Risk Assessment

Ever since the inception of industries, safety standards have been ever increasing. Yet, the risk of a fire hazard still stands as an immense concern even today. 

Fire hazards are difficult to predict, and the scale of this hazard is beyond one’s imagination. Fires spread rapidly before one can even take action to contain them, causing enormous damage to thousands of lives and property.

According to this report by The Hindu, there were 882 incidents of fire in industries across India between 2014- 2017 where the death toll crossed the 950-mark, making it the third-largest contributor for industrial deaths. 

Considering the tangible and intangible trauma caused by fires, industries are pushing hard towards a workspace that not only alerts everyone of a fire hazard but mitigates the risk of one in the first place by incorporating advanced safety equipment systems

To ensure the safety of your workplace, a Fire Risk Assessment must be on top of your checklist.

What is a Fire Risk Assessment?

A Fire Risk Assessment is a document that details all possible fire hazards in the building. The available data is then assessed and categorized and the people at risk are identified.

A Fire Risk Assessment acts as a guideline for managing the risk and eliminating unacceptable risks. It follows set procedures for assessment and is a multi-step process. 

Here is how a fire risk assessment usually works.

How to Conduct a Fire Risk Assessment  

1.Start with a fire audit

Fire safety audits are performed on the existing structure. It can be an office building, a manufacturing unit, or even a warehouse. Safety inspectors investigate the standards of fire safety present currently in the building. They also go through the necessary documentation. All the areas of non-compliance are profiled in this audit, and reformatory measures are imposed.

A fire audit can be performed under various circumstances such as, 

  • If there was a fire incident
  • If there is a complaint against the safety standards
  • Periodic follow-up audit

2.Identify the potential causes of fire

The problem of unpredictability is the most gruesome part of a fire hazard. Hence, to avoid fire-related catastrophes, it becomes vital to identify and then nullify the sources of fire.

The prime causes of a fire hazard at the workplace are:

  • Smoking – Carelessly discarded cigarette butts can be the source of a potential fire hazard. It is essential to create specific no-smoking and smoking zones around the premises to prevent accidental fires.
  • Combustible materials – Irresponsibly stored material that is combustible in nature may be a potential fire hazard. One needs to make sure that such material is stored safely away from sources of fire.
  • Waste material – Discarded packing material like cardboard, wooden pallets, or even rags soaked in oil, can act as agents that can rapidly spread the fire. It is necessary to separate the waste storage zone away from potential sources of fire.
  • Electricals – A faulty wiring or electrical equipment can ignite a fire. Electrical fires require a different type of extinguisher that contains carbon dioxide instead of water.
  • Arson – As insane as it sounds, there are many cases where the fire is started by an individual deliberately. It is necessary to factor in this possibility while conducting a fire risk assessment.

Disregarding this step can have massive repercussions.

On December 8th, 2019, a luggage manufacturing facility in Delhi was engulfed in a fire resulting in 43 deaths. The eyewitness and the initial investigation states the reason for the fire was an electrical short circuit. The building lacked a proper fire license and was not permitted to house a factory. The facility reportedly stored combustible materials. Here is the detailed story.

3.Identify the sources of fuel

Once you have assessed the potential sites of ignition, the next area that needs assessment is the source of fuel. Fire spreads rapidly depending on the kind of fuel it feeds on. 

In a chemical factory, there can be flammable fluids/gasses that can catch fire, when in contact with an ignition. Some gasses may catch fire upon exceeding a specific temperature. Periodic maintenance will keep the pipelines in check and detect potential leaks in the system.

A manufacturing facility where heat and fire are an integral part of the operations must be extra careful when it comes to fire safety. For example, while welding, one must ensure that no cleaning cloths or rags are lying around as the sparks generated during welding may ignite them. 

Machines that emit heat should have sufficient ventilation for heat dissipation. And flammable material such as paper, cardboard, plastic, rubber, and wood should be placed sufficiently away from potential sources. 

Lubricants and oils must be stored in closed drums and away from machines. The location of Electrical grids should be away from the facility where even if a fire arises, it does not spread.

4.Identify the sources of oxygen

For any fire to erupt, there are three principal contributors

  • Source of ignition
  • Combustible elements
  • Source of oxygen

If we eliminate even one of the three, the risk of fire spreading is reduced significantly. Or in some cases, even eliminated. 

Carbon Dioxide extinguishers are used to tackle fires spreading because of oxygen. These extinguishers displace the oxygen in the area so the fire has no fuel to burn. 

The cylinders containing oxygen must be stored far away to ensure that even if there is a fire hazard, they do not contribute to it. Recently an oxygen refilling center in Lucknow reported a blast resulting in 2 casualties. The fire caused by this blast resulted in 5 injuries. Such incidents are constant reminders of how important it is to follow safety SOP and fire guidelines seriously.  

5.Assess the potential damage based on the type of fire

There are five types of fires, and depending on their intensity, their potential of damage may vary.

Fire Risk Assessment

Identify the types of potential fire hazards based on the material in the area under risk assessment and accordingly develop adequate safety protocols to reduce the risk. The types of fire extinguishers used will also vary based on the type of fire, so ensure that you take careful note of the surroundings. 

6.Install the right Fire Safety System to mitigate fire risks

Now that you have analyzed all possible hazards, their location, and the area they may damage,  the next step is to equip your facility with highly reliable Fire Safety Systems. 

This ensures that if there were a fire despite all your precautionary measures, you are prepared to contain it before it causes damage to property or life.

There are two methods to incorporate fire safety into your manufacturing facilities.

  • Passive systems – While constructing a facility, the architect or the civil engineer can incorporate non-flammable materials. Identify assembly points in the design and include fire exits and fire escapes.
  • Active systems – These systems react to the fire. The most commonly used active system is a sprinkler system. The system uses water and which has adequate pressure in the lines. 

In case of a fire, the sprinklers disperse water over a wide area to contain and suppress the spread. Pre-action, Dry Pipe, Wet Pipe, and Deluge are a few types of sprinkler systems.

Active systems also consist of fire alarms which warn people of a potential fire hazard and help them evacuate the premises. Such a system plays a vital role as they help empty the facility reducing loss of life significantly.

Apart from these systems, there is a variety of fire extinguishers available for various types of fires. It is the organization’s responsibility to train individuals and guide them duly to use this equipment in case of emergencies.

Endnote

SHM believes in providing highly efficient solutions to the world when it comes to fire safety equipment. We are a trusted manufacturer and supplier of industry-leading Fire Safety Equipment for over 20 years and have a wide variety of fire safety systems that ensure absolute safety in case of fire hazards.

Organizations devote a lot of time, money, and effort to create a manufacturing facility. Each facility has expensive machines, materials, and more importantly its employees. A small error can trigger a fire causing immense loss. Hence, it is necessary to incorporate robust fire safety systems in the workplace to avoid any catastrophe.

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