Alt Title: How to Lower the Risk of Fire in Industrial Settings
Got an industrial plant? You need a fire prevention strategy. You also need a fire suppression system to lessen the damage when a fire does occur. The question is, where do you start?
The Most Common Causes of Industrial Fires
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that there are an average of 37,000 fires at industrial and manufacturing properties every year. That amounts to over 100 fires per day. These incidents result in 18 deaths, 279 serious injuries, and over $1 billion in direct property damage each year.
While every industrial fire is obviously unique and happens as a result of unique circumstances, most can be traced back to one of a few common underlying causes. Here’s a look at some:
Combustible dust. Depending on the plant, combustible dust can be a major risk factor. This is especially common in industrial facilities where there’s food manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, woodworking, etc.
The biggest problem with combustible dust is that it amplifies a fire. What starts as a small fire can easily turn into a massive blaze in a matter of seconds. The fine dust is highly flammable and generally covers everything in the facility in a fine dust that gives flammable properties to everything it touches.
The scariest part about combustible dust is that it can become airborne. This may lead to secondary fires and explosions even after the original fire has been put out.
Hot work. Activities like burning, soldering, heating, and welding pose a fire risk. Sparks from these activities can produce heat with temperatures upwards of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. They can also travel as far as 35 feet or more.
When you combine hot work with the presence of combustible dust, the risk of a fire occurring increases even more.
Flammable gasses and liquids. If your facility has chemicals, such as gas or liquids, there’s going to be an increased risk of fire. In the infamous 2010 power plant explosion in Middletown, CT that killed six and left 50 more injured, the cause of the fire could be traced back to flammable gas. The companies involved were fined $16.6 million by OSHA for failing to properly manage these materials.
Machinery and equipment. Any kind of faulty heavy machinery or hot work equipment can instantly become a fire hazard. While any number of underlying factors may be at play here, it’s usually a lack of preventive maintenance and/or cleaning that causes these machines to experience excessive friction and combustibility.
Vehicles. According to the NFPA, vehicles account for roughly 9 percent of all manufacturing and industrial fires every year. Vehicles cause fires for many of the same reasons as heavy machinery and equipment. In large facilities where these vehicles are stored or operated indoors, this creates serious safety hazards.
4 Fire Prevention Tips at Industrial Plants
Fires are, unfortunately, quite common in industrial plants where there’s a high concentration of combustible materials, flammable substances, hot work, and equipment. All it takes is one or two missteps and a fire starts. As a business owner, plant manager, or safety officer, here are several helpful fire prevention tips you can use at your industrial plant to avoid becoming a statistic.
1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
One of the very first things you need to do is conduct a hazard analysis. We’re talking about a thorough, certified analysis that examines all aspects of your industrial plant. You might even need multiple analyses, depending on the factors involved. For example, there’s a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA) that NFPA requires. And each time you install a new piece of equipment, you should reanalyze the entire operation. Hazard analyses can also be done on equipment, storage practices, etc.
2. Invest in Preventive Maintenance
You can significantly reduce the risk of a serious fire at your plant by investing in the right preventive maintenance. Most plant managers think about preventive maintenance within the context of lower operational costs and preventing breakdowns. However, it’s just as much about addressing fire hazards (which, ironically enough, lowers operational costs and the risk of equipment failure).
3. Train Your Team
Most industrial plants will train a few employees on fire prevention and response. Or in some cases, you might actually have a safety officer who oversees the whole fire prevention and response plan. But can we let you in on a little secret? That’s not enough.
It’s not enough to have one person who understands how to prevent or respond to fires. Every single employee who works on your plant floor needs to be specifically trained in these areas. This includes training on:
- How to identify and neutralize fire risks
- How to use a manual fire extinguisher
- Who to contact in a fire situation
- How to alert the fire department
When you train your team, it’s much less likely that a small fire becomes a big problem. Your team will be more calm, collected, and safe in their response.
Good training should happen both during onboarding and as part of your ongoing training and development. Regular reminders and refreshers help the material stick better.
4. Get a Clean Agent Fire Suppression System
There are so many different types of fire suppression systems available for industrial plants. However, if you’re serious about this investment, we highly recommend a waterless fire suppression system. These systems are not only very effective, but they also reduce collateral damage and prevent equipment and electronics from being damaged by water.
Choosing the Right Fire Suppression System
Preventing a fire from starting in the first place is the ultimate goal. But once a fire does occur, you need to be capable of squelching it within seconds. If nothing else, mitigating and containing the fire until the fire department arrives is a must.
When it comes to fire suppression systems, you have plenty to choose from. At CeaseFire, we have a variety of options, including waterless and clean agent fire suppression systems perfect for industrial applications.
Want to learn more? We’d be happy to answer any questions you have and provide a free quote. Please contact us today!