7 fire safety tips for manufacturing facilities

Wormald Australia

Wednesday, 10 June, 2015


7 fire safety tips for manufacturing facilities

The impact and cost of fire in a manufacturing facility should never be underestimated.

Significant injuries to workers, fatalities and costly damage to property all have the potential to spell the end of a business. Often, machines are custom built to produce specific products, and if damaged or destroyed in a fire, they may take months or even years to rebuild, resulting in significant downtime and lost revenue.

Australian fire protection company Wormald says the conversation around fire protection for the manufacturing sector is changing as more manufacturers undertake rationalisation programs and centralise procurement services.

“Manufacturers want to minimise inconsistencies across sites and capitalise on the economies of scale associated with using one national fire protection provider,” said Bill Adamopoulos from fire protection specialist Wormald.

“Fire protection is a shared responsibility and it is vital that all those involved in fire safety at manufacturing plants understand and invest in adequate fire protection solutions.”

He offers the following fire safety recommendations when looking at fire protection management:

1. Establish responsibility for fire safety: Generally, under Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) legislation, officers must ensure that the business meets its WHS obligations and can be held personally liable for failing to do so. It’s important that clear systems are established, including exercising due diligence to ensure appropriate policies, procedures, safety practices and resources are in place. If responsibility is shared, the parameters for each manager should be clearly communicated and defined.

2. Understand legislative and regulatory requirements: Fire safety is heavily regulated and every manufacturer must comply with appropriate legislation. The national building code, Australian Standards, the principal set of WHS regulations in each state and territory, and legislation governing the maintenance of fire protection systems are central to fire safety.

Typically, these documents demand that the person in control of a workplace, business or undertaking is responsible for ensuring that fire and explosion risks are minimised, appropriate fire protection is available and regular maintenance is conducted.

3. Conduct a thorough risk assessment: A detailed understanding of fire risks and hazards can help to minimise fire and explosion risks and identify a suitable fire protection solution. The most common fire risks in manufacturing are machinery, stock or parts stored on-site or in warehouses and the manufacturing process (eg, the use of heat or hazardous gases).

4. Install an adequate fire protection solution: A range of fire protection solutions is available for manufacturing sites, including basic fire extinguishers, water spray deluge systems, gas or foam systems. It’s important to cater to the specific requirements of a site. When deciding on fire protection, some key considerations include the materials being used, size of the site, number of staff, as well as legislative, regulatory or insurance requirements that apply to the manufacturer’s particular circumstances.

5. Regularly audit, inspect and maintain fire protection equipment: Reliability is vital when it comes to fire protection. Systems and equipment should always perform to the standard to which they were originally designed and installed. Regular testing can help to uncover any faults or issues that may cause malfunction. Australian Standard AS1851 - ‘Maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment’ recommends that fire protection systems be regularly tested, serviced and maintained.

6. Regularly revisit training and emergency response processes: A confident team that is able to respond well in the event of a fire is an invaluable investment and can substantially reduce the impact of a crisis. Emergency evacuation procedures should be regularly reviewed, and everyone working in a manufacturing facility should be trained on how to respond appropriately to a fire incident and use fire protection equipment correctly. This includes briefing new employees and regularly conducting refresher training for existing staff.

7. Choose a fire protection provider carefully: Time is the biggest challenge facing manufacturers when it comes to fire safety and, as a result, it can often be overlooked. Outsourcing fire protection to a reputable provider can help to ensure compliance requirements are met and changes in legislation are closely monitored.

The Fire Protection Association of Australia’s Providers of Choice are reputable suppliers who are required to comply with strict codes of practice and insurance requirements. It’s also important to ensure a provider can offer adequate and convenient support, both online and face to face, to reduce administrative frustrations and facilitate regular and thorough communication. Wormald Connect allows customers to access their inspection and reporting data 24/7 for instant and easy visibility.

For more information, visit www.wormald.com.au or call 133 166.

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