Fire safety is in the headlines these days, with more businesses realising their policies, procedures and training may need a refresh. At EEF, our fire safety experts work directly with manufacturers to conduct fire risk assessments. In touring facilities across the UK, we’ve uncovered some recurring problems.
Ignoring two of three points in the ‘fire triangle’
In the ‘fire triangle’, you need fuel, ignition and oxygen to start a blaze. Typically, businesses should focus on the first two at first (because oxygen is in plentiful supply in the air around us!). In an industrial setting, fuel could be combustible materials and chemicals, while ignition could be hot/defective equipment or sparks. Companies often have plans to designate safe areas for materials and activities, such as grinding, welding and smoking. However, too often these procedures are forgotten in day-to-day activities and even when controlled via a permit to work system, things can fall down if the arrangements are not implemented or adhered to.
Those in charge of health and safety and staff fire marshals should be on the look-out for activities that don’t match up to best practice. This can potentially mean sending a member of staff on a NEBOSH fire safety and risk management certificate.
Want more information on what you should look for when auditing your facility for fire safety? Download our 'Fire safety checklist'.
Overlooking the fabric of the building
Following the recent tragic events at Grenfell Tower, this is something that is being talked about more frequently now, but all too often we see Fire Risk Assessments that are not suitable and sufficient as they do not consider suitability of the materials used in the building, the layout, occupancy, design and provisions or controls on means of escape.
Not updating fire risk assessments and policies when there’s change
It’s amazing how many fire risk assessments and policies we see that are not updated when a site has changes. For example, when machines are moved, structures and fire doors damaged, new services/systems pipes or ducting put through a fire wall, an extension added to a building or a new system added, fire risk assessments, safety policies and procedures often need to be reviewed and updated too.
Installing inappropriate fire detectors
When conducting a walk-through of a manufacturing site, we often see disabled smoke detectors. Typically, the excuse given is that they go off due to issues unrelated to smoke or fire. For example, a dusty work space, condensation from a large boiler or mist coming in through a roller door can all trigger certain types of fire detectors.
The solution isn’t to disable or move fire detectors that give false alarms, but to install a more appropriate detector, such as UV or infrared system which is not triggered by particles. The level of coverage in place is also something that may not have been considered either.
Having uncoordinated fire response
Most companies have a basic policy that informs staff what to do in case of a fire – drop everything you’re doing, exit the building and proceed to the designated assembly point. However, where the ball gets dropped is typically with the organisation of fire marshals, for example:
- Not having a sufficient number of fire marshals on each shift (particularly if personnel or shifts have changed)
- Not properly training fire marshals
- Not having a coordinated, efficient plan for who will sweep what specific areas of the building
- Not having fire marshals distributed across all areas of the business (e.g. all the fire marshals are on the shop floor, but none in the office area)
- Not having a specific individual designated to investigate the potential fire and notify the alarm receiving company and fire brigade?
If you believe your facility could use an updated fire safety plan, a risk assessment or safety training, get in touch. You can also download our Fire safety checklist on what to look for when auditing your manufacturing facility for fire risks.