Over the last couple of years, there has been a dramatic increase in the size and number of warehouses, particularly in areas next to motorway junctions or in key transport hub locations. The materials that are stored in those facilities are varied, ranging from electronic products to CDs, books, small electronic items, and more. The wide variety and number of items that are in stock as well as the activities that may be done (for instance, charging electric vehicles and heated shrink wrapping) along with all of the vehicle movements that occur present many opportunities for incidents to happen without having a rigorous fire safety programme in place.
Although the incidence of fires in generally low in warehouses, the size of buildings as well as the high volumes of potentially combustible materials that are stored inside of them can result in fires turning into major conflagrations and that can be very challenging for rescue and fire services and cause major disruptions to business continuity and significant property losses.
It is very important to be aware that in numerous warehouses, the storage mode, products stores, and fire hazards associated with them, can change very quickly. Therefore, the process of fire risk assessment needs to be an ongoing one. That will help to ensure that any changes to overall fire risk can be properly identified and any modifications that are needed can be made to the overall fire safety programme and strategy.
Special attention must be made to some of the more common activities that the existing warehouses carry out.
1. Compliance with all fire safety legislation
- Installing sprinklers as well as other fixed fire suppression systems as necessary.
- Physical segregation of warehouses from any manufacturing areas as well as other on-site operations that are carried out.
- Staff training on actions to be taken in the event there is fire, which includes safely shutting down of conveyors and other equipment such as electric pallet trucks as well as the premises being evacuated.
- At all times premises need to be kept in orderly and clean condition and waste materials or goods shouldn’t be stored in any aisles or other locations that have been designated as clear areas.
- Combustible packaging material stock out in open warehouse needs to be minimised; bulk supplies need to be stored in either a separate fire department inside of the main warehouse or in a separate building.
3. Fire safety management
- There should be close liaison established with rescue and fire service starting at the planning stage, particularly in situations where high-level storage is being planned. The service will have to come out to the site for a visit in order to establish the locations as well as the water as well as to what extent water supplies are available at the location. They also will need to be given details on water sprinklers as well as any other installed automatic fire suppression systems.
- It cannot be over-emphasised the benefits that are provided by a comprehensive fire safety management programme combined with adequate staff training and appropriate fire safety procedures that are embraced and observed by all staff members.
4. Staff training and procedures
- The proper procedures for sounding the alarm and contacting rescue and fire service needs to established and should be included in the fire safety training programme for employees.
- Refresher and induction training needs to be provided in how to use fire extinguishers properly and the procedures that are to be followed when a fire is discovered and how to respond to a fire alarm as well.
5. Lift trucks
There are various styles of lift trucks that warehouse operations commonly used. Whether they are powered by liquefied gas (LPG), batteries, diesel fuel, or petrol, significant fire hazards can occur. Relevant staff needs to be trained in how to properly use them.
All trucks need to be designated that they are safe to use in all identified hazard zones inside of the warehouse based on the DSEAR assessment.