Warehouses are extremely important assets to businesses, storing the vast majority of goods that are sold to their customers. Needless to say, fire safety is extremely important as simple mistakes can lead to a full-blown warehouse fire, potentially destroying everything stored within the warehouse. There have been several warehouse fires in Australia this year which have been devastating and have caused millions of dollars in damage.1 While statistically there are less injuries in warehouse fires as opposed to residential fires, the associated costs are far higher due to the size of the structures and the large amount of fuel which makes these fires very difficult to extinguish. While no warehouses are completely safe from fires, there are certainly measures that can be put in place to minimise the risk of fires and the subsequent damage to property, goods, and workers.
Fire Safety Legislation
The best place to start with designing successful fire safety procedures is to perform a comprehensive risk assessment that adheres to the relevant legislation in your location. While there are different regulations for different types of warehouses, most of these risk assessments follow these criteria:
- Identify fire hazards
- Identify workers at risk
- Evaluate and reduce these risks
- Document the findings and prepare fire safety procedures
- Provide the relevant training
- Evaluate and revise the risk assessment frequently
Fire Protection Equipment
Warehouse fire protection equipment is extremely important to prevent small fires from escalating and to clear an evacuation path if needed. Common fire protection tools used in warehouses include fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and automatic fire detection systems. Each warehouse requires a customised system that is dependent on the type of goods being stored and the design of the warehouse itself. There is no one-size-fits-all approach so it’s best to seek professional advice from a fire protection specialist to ensure your warehouse is protected as best as possible.
Storage is probably the most important factor in preventing fires and there are several reasons why it’s so important to have adequate and clearly defined storage areas. Firstly, aisles that are cramped are dangerous because they can block exits for employees. Furthermore, cramped warehouses tend to spread fire more easily, and mixing hazardous materials with other warehouse goods significantly increases the chances of a fire.
Along with this, there are other important considerations to keep in mind. Always ensure you keep electrical and heating equipment a safe distance from storage, allow at least 18 inches between goods and lighting, and don’t stack goods to close to the sprinkler systems which would prevent them from effectively dousing the area. Adequate and effective storage techniques is key in preventing warehouse fires.
Unfortunately, some warehouse fires are caused by arsons so it’s extremely important to protect your business by installing effective internal and external security systems as a deterrence. Adequate fencing, locks, security cameras, and alarms are all essential in warehouse security to deter arsonists.
Waste removal is another key area that must be considered in any warehouse fire safety system. Accumulated waste presents a severe fire risk so workers must be well versed in proper waste removal methods at the end of each working day. Most warehouses will have lockable, metal containers located a safe distance from the warehouse where all waste should be placed. Furthermore, these containers should never be overloaded and should be closed and locked at the end of each day.
Australian legislation mandates that all warehouses are a smoke-free zone, however you can provide smoking shelters away from the warehouse. These shelters must be constructed using only non-flammable materials and there must be no flammable materials located within 15 metres from the smoking shelter.
Due to the amount of flammable materials located within a warehouse, fire prevention and safety systems are absolutely crucial. While the number of warehouse fires has reduced over the years, there are still too many warehouse fires that can be easily prevented by following the above guidelines. If you have any questions about your fire prevention and safety program, or you simply need some advice from a fire protection specialist, get in touch with King Fire Protection Systems on 1300 344 966, or visit their website for further information: https://www.kingfire.com.au/