With over 300 fires every year at waste management sites in the UK, waste and recycling plant companies are recognising the need for increased fire protection systems.
As well as the obvious risk to human life, a major fire causes financial loss through lack of business continuity and downtime whilst recovery takes place, as well as significant costs in property damage. Then there’s the major environmental damage caused by such fires. And with the waste and recycling industry fast gaining a reputation for being unsafe, it is imperative that waste companies protect their staff and their sites.
Reasons to Reduce Fire Risk
As well as obviously wanting to protect life, there are many business and environmental reasons to mitigate fire risk.
- Combustion products, even those from non-toxic materials, release airborne pollutants. These can cause both short and long-term effects on human health and the environment.
- Firewater run-off can transport pollutants into our drainage systems, rivers, lakes, and soil. This in turn can threaten water supplies, public health and wildlife.
- Property damage can be significant and costly. Also, if you lease your site a fire may well result in the termination of your lease.
- Following a fire, you are likely to be responsible for the costs of clean-up, both on and off-site. This is often expensive, as in many cases the remains of combustion products and partially burnt material can be classified as hazardous/special waste.
- The interruption to your business and the time taken to recover from the effects of a fire can effectively put you out of business.
- Insurance premiums are likely to rise substantially following a major fire, or you may find you’re not able to secure any insurance policy at an affordable cost.
- A major fire could affect your environmental permit/licence/exemption, including any subsistence or other fees you pay.
How To Reduce Fire Risk
The key to securing your site from the risk of fire is to look at a whole site solution. You should install systems that can both detect the early stages of a fire and mitigate fires as early in the process as possible.
Typically, most waste management sites have three main area types:
- Waste receiving reception areas
- Treatment/process areas where waste may be subject to various stages – sorting, shredding, drying, sizing etc
- Waste storage areas for either incoming or outgoing waste.
The risk factors in each area are likely to be different from each other, and a full, comprehensive fire risk assessment determines these. We recommend a new fire risk assessment every three years. Choose a competent assessor to look at fire safety across the whole site and identify any areas of non-compliance requiring attention.
What Fire Safety Systems Should Be Installed?
Obviously, this changes from site to site dependent on the types of waste being processed. Some systems to consider are:
Thermal imaging cameras
Heat detectors often aren’t quick enough to spot the start of a fire and trigger fire safety systems. Thermal imaging cameras can provide the earliest possible warning, detecting the start of a fire before it takes hold. They monitor not just surface waste but also waste below the surface. Thermal imaging cameras are a good solution in all waste storage areas, but more so in waste reception areas. The waste management company mentioned before concluded that 31% of their fires started in the reception area – from accepting batteries, hot ashes etc in the waste. Thermal imaging cameras identify this type of waste in reception, allowing action to prevent combustion.
Aspirating Smoke Detection
Another highly effective form of detection is aspirating smoke detection. This works by drawing air in via pipes, then sampling it to detect smoke particles. If enough are found, then a fire extinguishing system will be deployed. The benefit to this system is that it can cope with extreme environments. This is due to the ability to situate detection units away from the protected area and any harmful contaminants.
Once a fire has been detected, an automatic sprinkler system is highly effective at extinguishing waste fires. Sprinklers are cost effective, extremely reliable, and more importantly effective. The sprinkler system should be proportionate to the nature and scale of waste management activities you carry out and the associated risks.
Water Misting System
To further reduce the risk of fire, installing a water misting system to damp down dust and odour is a good consideration depending on the type of waste you’re processing. By creating a high concentration of ultra-thin water droplets, a water misting system shields your site from low visibility and spontaneous combustion, while still cutting down the risk of dust explosion and fire.
A full, comprehensive fire risk assessment helps to determine the systems to install at your waste management site. Every site will have different activities, layouts, risk factors and more that will influence the best solution for that site.
We already look after many companies in the waste and recycling sector, so our extensive experience will ensure you receive the correct tailored whole-site fire safety solution for your site.
Our customers include:
- Morley Waste Traders
- PMK Recycling
- Salvatex Recycling
- Woodford Recycling Services and many others.
An initial site survey and in-depth consultation determines your specific requirements and conditions. Our expert in-house design department then design a tailored, integrated solution for your site.
Your bespoke fire safety solution will ensure peace of mind and compliance with health and safety legislation. In addition, it will demonstrate your commitment to the highest standards of fire risk management to your staff and customers.
To discuss your site fire safety solutions, please speak to one of our Waste and Recycling industry experts. Call us on 0330 094 7404. Alternatively, complete your details and we’ll be in touch asap.
We have two guides available completely free of charge to help ensure your business is fire safe.
Our Essential Guide to Fire Alarm Systems will answer all your questions on the process of installing a fire alarm system, guiding you down the right path to protecting your business and employees, and complying with fire safety legislation.
The Fire Safety Compliance Guide for Business will establish exactly what your responsibilities are to ensure you’re kept on the right side of the law, and that your business and your employees are kept as safe as possible from the threat of fire.