The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimated that, in 2013, there were 1,240,000 fires, resulting in 3,240 civilian fire fatalities, 15,925 civilian fire injuries, and $11.5 billion in direct property loss. These fire losses demonstrate the need for proper fire prevention procedures. While all fires start small, they can quickly spread out of control when subjected to the right conditions, such as the presence of combustibles or improper handling of heat-producing equipment.
Managing Combustible Waste
Combustible waste products are estimated to play a part in about 11% of industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse fires. It is important to keep all workplace areas tidy by removing trash daily to an outside trash dumpster or to a non-hazardous site elsewhere.
Adequately Storing Idle Pallets
Idle pallets pose a threat, as their tall structure and open spaces between slats allow air to flow freely while heat from burning surfaces radiates to intensify the fire. Ideally, pallets should be stored outside, in long narrow piles. Aisles between individual piles should be at least twice the pile height to allow for efficient firefighting. Some other tips regarding pallets are:
- Restrict the height of storage when close to a building in order to prevent burning pallets from falling onto the building.
- Leave at least 30 feet of clearance for up to 200 pallets and at least 50 feet of clearance for more than 200 pallets.
- Store pallets flat and away from other pallet storage areas, combustible fluids, and structural supports.
- Protect indoor piles over six feet in height with an automatic sprinkler system that is in accordance with NFPA 13.
Reducing Risks Associated with Heat-Producing Equipment
Heat-producing equipment is responsible for between 10-13% of industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse fires. The risk of this equipment, that includes boilers, furnaces, heat exchangers, ovens, fryers, and stoves, can be reduced through proper installation. Installation should be in accordance with the applicable safety codes and should include safety equipment to control heat sources or to detect fuel leaks. Equipment should be regularly inspected, tested, and maintained. Ventilation points should be regularly cleaned to prevent overheating. Flammable items and liquids should not be placed in the near vicinity of the equipment, and all employees on the premises should be well educated on all safety precautions and measures regarding the equipment.
Some of these tasks are “no-brainers” however, many employers still disregard them and are faced with tragic fires that could have been easily prevented. We urge you to take a good look at your workplace fire prevention plan and adjust as necessary to minimize your risk.