On average, a total of 621 warehouse fires and 341 industrial factory fires occur annually in England and Wales. And this happens because of the unique set of risks that factories and warehouses have to manage. Where certain materials are handled or processes performed, fire risk will always be greater. Which is why there are specific regulations relating to fire safety in higher risk workplaces, such as warehouses and factories. And understanding those regulations and the related risks is the first step towards improving fire safety, and protecting your employees and your property.
What are the fire safety regulations for warehouses and factories?
According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, there are a number of steps owners or managers of factories and warehouses are obliged to adhere to.
- Factories and warehouses must appoint a ‘responsible person’ to implement and maintain fire safety precautions. And to ensure that all fire safety protocols are observed at all times.
- A Fire Risk Assessment is performed and maintained in order to identify and mitigate all potential fire hazards.
- That clear, unobstructed access it provided to fire exits for all personnel.
- And that relevant fire safety equipment is made available throughout the premises. And that equipment is well maintained and regularly serviced.
So, let’s look into those areas in a little more detail.
The role and duties of the ‘responsible person’
While the responsible person in a factory or warehouse is usually the owner or manager, anyone else related to the business can be appointed. The important thing is that they understand their role and that they know how to perform their duties.
Many of these duties involve the standard fire safety regulations pertaining to all UK businesses. But the responsible person in a factory or warehouse also has a number of other unique concerns.
These are the areas a responsible person should be focused on.
- The identification and management of any fire risks. In factories and warehouses, you are likely to have a range of fire risks specific to your business or setting. These may include, but are not limited to, the storage of flammable liquids or gases, or other combustible materials. The use of ignition equipment. Equipment that may put a strain on the electrical system. Machinery that presents a fire risk in the event of malfunction. Improperly placed heating equipment. Or the poor storage of waste.
- The installation of equipment to minimise fire risk and reduce the spread of fire and smoke. This may include fire alarm systems, fire doors, fire exits, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, fire safety signage. The responsible person is also duty-bound to ensure that proper maintenance and servicing of these items is regularly conducted by a competent person. While this all sounds fairly standard, some regulations are specific to high-risk workplaces. For example, BS 5306 states that a person should never be more than 30 metres away from an appropriate fire extinguisher. So, it’s important to understand which of the regulations apply to your particular setting.
- The implementation of strategies to support safe evacuation for all. This may involve the creation of safe fire exit routes from various parts of the building. And the identification of a safe fire assembly point, which is legally required to be twice the distance of the height of a building. This is to ensure that no one who has escaped the fire is injured by falling debris.
How to identify potential fire hazards in a factory or warehouse
The easiest and most effective way to identify potential fire hazards in a factory or warehouse is to conduct a fire risk assessment. Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement for almost all UK businesses. While this is something that you can manage inhouse, most high risk businesses outsource the creation of their fire risk assessment to a professional service.
To identify all potential fire hazards, the responsible person in factories and warehouses must assess all aspects of the business. This might include:
- Processes – the protocols put in place for the use of potential sources of ignition.
- Materials – how and where combustible materials are stored, and whether they are separate from sources of ignition.
- Equipment and electrical appliances – is all equipment PAT tested? Have precautions been taken to ensure that electrical systems are not being overloaded.
- Building infrastructure – have all relevant fire safety building regulations been adhered to?
- Entrances and exits – Are fire exits and fire doors in place? Are they easily accessible? Are there any obstructions? Do they work properly?
- Staff rooms and cooking facilities – have you implemented a no smoking policy? Are food cooking areas away from combustible materials? Do you have the right fire extinguishers and fire blankets available?
- Storage – is there appropriate fire safety equipment in all storage areas? Are these areas free from unnecessary debris?
- They must also consider personnel and any individuals who may be at particular risk in the event of a fire.
Fire safety equipment installation, maintenance, and servicing
As well as overseeing the installation of the correct fire safety equipment, in warehouses and factories, the responsible person has a duty to ensure that that equipment is properly maintained and serviced.
Each piece of equipment has its own servicing and maintenance requirements. But areas of responsibility will include:
- Fire alarms – Weekly testing inhouse, and servicing at least once every six months.
- Fire extinguishers – Monthly visual inspections, basic annual service, and extended service.
- Emergency lighting – Monthly inhouse testing, with a full duration test at least once a year.
Factories and warehouses are high fire risk premises. In order to protect your business, it is vital that you ensure that all fire safety precautions are in place, adhered to, and regularly reviewed.
If you need support with fire safety for factories or warehouses, at 1st Class Fire Protection, we have more than 25 years experience supporting the businesses of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and the surrounding areas with their fire safety needs. Get in touch to find out how we could help you.