Monday night’s fire at a Tottenham warehouse was so severe it required 140 firefighters to tackle the blaze. Though the cause of fire is not yet known, it brings to the forefront the particular issues around fire safety in warehouses. What are the particular challenges in keeping industrial workplaces and warehouses safe?
Combustible materials and dust
Warehouses are often used for storage of dangerous or flammable materials. A segregation policy is vital here; any possible sources of fire need to be completely separated from areas of chemical storage. Fire sources are numerous and can include rubbish, dust, cigarettes or hot work. These need to be removed from the warehouse completely, or segregated from dangerous chemicals completely, using fire safe building materials.
For more detailed information about segregation and storage of individual chemicals, the Health and Safety Executive has set out guidance here.
Combustible dust is also a hazard in warehouses and manufacturing plants. If there is a large amount of dust in the area when a fire starts, the dust can become airborne and cause a dangerous secondary explosion. It’s important to ensure a regular housekeeping regime to make sure dust is kept to a minimum.
It is not surprising that hot work, such as welding and soldering, is one of the leading causes of industrial fires. Training of staff is vital to ensure they undertake hot work in a safe manner, and of course use common sense when it comes to where the hot work takes place. Keep it away from anything flammable. Make sure staff are supervised if required and have all the correct safety equipment and clothing.
Equipment and machinery
Faulty equipment is a real fire risk, whether it’s an improperly maintained boiler, or poorly serviced machinery. Manufacturers’ instructions regarding servicing and maintenance of equipment must be followed to keep everyone safe.
Electrical fires can also be a problem in industrial environments. Make sure everything is unplugged when not in use (where possible). Don’t overload electrical circuits, and avoid extension leads where you can. Regularly check equipment to make sure it is working properly and wires are safe.
It goes without saying that smoking is a fire hazard. In the UK, smoking is illegal in enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces. However in a warehouse situation, where people may be smoking outside, it is vital that they do this away from stored materials, particularly those that are combustible. Staff need to be very careful about discarding cigarette butts, ensuring they are extinguished completely and put in a safe place.
In a warehouse setting with so many potential causes of fire, building compartmentation is vital. Areas need to sectioned off, particularly those with combustible materials and dangerous chemicals. Walls and doors need to be fire resistant and fire doors need to be closed to prevent the spread of fire if the worst happens
Approved document B sets out how to safely separate compartments in all types of workplace, and what fire resistant materials are needed to ensure regulations are met.
Want more information about building compartmentation? Click here for our blog that explores how to prevent the spread of fire.
As with any place of work, it is vital that the responsible person (i.e. the person in charge of fire safety) carries out a risk assessment, and makes regular checks to ensure this information is up to date.
It is essential that all employers provide comprehensive fire safety training to employees, and make sure any visitors are supervised, and aware of emergency procedures.
Simple steps to take are to make sure the building is regularly cleaned and free of dust and that all exits are kept clear for people to evacuate safely in an emergency. Inspect and maintain all equipment. Place combustible materials away from anything that is an ignition risk, and ensure they are stored safely and according to government guidelines. Make it easy for employees to report anything that they spot as a potential risk.
Fire safety starts with education and training but common sense is crucial. If something looks dangerous, make sure the responsible person is aware so that the problem can be investigated and made safe. Fire prevention is always the safest option.
In 1994 our chairman Neil Purssey invented the first wireless hold-open device for fire doors. Dorgard reacted to the sound of a fire alarm to automatically close the door. It did that then and it does that now.
Dorgard keeps fire doors open for convenience, and closes them in an emergency for safety. Fire doors need to be closed to prevent the spread of smoke and fire, so Dorgard keeps people protected, and businesses compliant with fire regulations.
Dorgard is simple, convenient and it works. Like all successful products, it has been copied many times over the years. Copies are never as good as the original. Those that merely copy don’t have the expertise to develop and improve upon their products as they didn’t have to come up with the idea in the first place. We discussed this very topic with Dorgard Pro.
Dorgard was our idea, and over the years we have continued to listen, learn and grow. We have used our extensive fire safety knowledge and experience to create new fire safety solutions. Freedor is a free swing door closer that holds fire doors open, but also takes the weight out of heavy doors. Dorgard Pro has a transmitter that can be connected to any fire alarm system so it can be radio-activated. Deafgard and DMS alert deaf and hard of hearing people when a fire alarm sounds.
Our latest innovation, Dorgard SmartSound, has the best listening technology on the market. It already knows the sound of your fire alarm so doesn’t need any programming, and it won’t be triggered by the sound of the vacuum cleaner.
We know about fire safety and we know about the technology that makes Dorgard work. Close to one million fire doors are already kept safe with our products and we’ll continue to innovate to make sure our products remain the best on the market.
Fireco. We make compliance easy.
Upgrade your old Dorgards for our brand new product Dorgard SmartSound and receive £20 off each new unit.
Dorgard SmartSound™ is the latest addition to the Fireco product range. Keep your fire doors open legally, safe in the knowledge that they will automatically close if a fire alarm sounds.
Vacuum cleaner friendly — New SmartSound technology means Dorgard SmartSound is not triggered by the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
Fit and forget — SmartSound technology means there’s no need to waste time training your Dorgard SmartSound to learn the sound of your alarm. It’s works right out of the box without any complicated programming.
Carpet friendly — Anti-drag technology means that Dorgard SmartSound won’t damage your carpets. If someone tries to pull the door, the unit’s plunger will automatically release, and not drag along the carpet.
Three-year battery life — Dorgard SmartSound has a three-year battery life for added peace of mind.
Suitable for heavy doors — No more struggling with heavy fire doors. Dorgard SmartSound can be fitted to heavy doors, which is great for improving access throughout a building.
Once your new SmartSounds are installed, send us your old Dorgards to get your discount.
We can even collect them for you, contact us to find out more.
Lockdown is a security measure used in buildings to keep people safe from an immediate threat.
In partial lockdown, doors leading to the outside are locked and no one can get in or out. A full lockdown requires people to stay put and not move out the room. All doors are shut and locked.
When is lockdown used?
The use of emergency lockdown is on the increase. There are many situations when it is implemented, including natural disasters, criminal threats, terrorist activity and chemical spills or gas leaks. It is used in prisons, schools, universities, hospitals, or any public building that needs to protect its occupants.
A common reason for lockdown is if there is an intruder inside or outside the building, or if a crime is taking place nearby. It is safer for occupants to stay put, lock all doors and wait for the emergency services.
In May, a Sussex school was forced into lockdown after a group of travellers broke in and set up camp on the playing field. Center Parcs in Suffolk was put on lockdown due to a suspect package. Hundreds of guests were evacuated from the main building area, including the swimming pool, and told to remain in their cabins.
Lockdown in schools
Schools are a huge growth area for lockdown. The teacher’s union NASUWT recently called on the government to put together a coherent strategy for lockdown procedures in schools. NASUWT stated that it was an urgent matter that schools were specifically prepared for security and terrorism threats.
Some schools already run their own ad hoc drills. West Yorkshire council has been running seminars providing advice on lockdown scenarios, including aggressive pupils or parents, as well as bomb threats.
Fireco can help. Our Dorgard Pro system can close all doors at once, to form part of an effective lockdown procedure. To find out more, visit our lockdown page.