Five Tips for Preventing Plant Fires in 2021
Fire may not seem like an immediate threat, but there are more than 5,000 fires in manufacturing plants every year.
- By Devin Partida
- Dec 21, 2020
2020 has been a landmark year for industrial facility safety. A slew of challenges and hazards have put the world’s safety systems to the test, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. After nearly 4.2 million acres of land burned in California alone, fire safety carries new urgency going into 2021.
Fire may not seem like an immediate threat, but there are more than 5,000 fires in manufacturing plants every year. These result in hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and, more importantly, hundreds of injuries and dozens of deaths. Thankfully, these incidents are preventable, and these five steps can help ensure facilities avoid them.
1. Train All Employees On Fire Safety
Carelessness is one of the leading causes of nonresidential fires, second only to cooking accidents. Facilities need to provide thorough fire safety training if they hope to prevent these incidents. All workers should understand where potential fire hazards are located and how to work in those areas safely.
If any employees work with flammable materials, they should know how to handle them correctly. Facilities should also take disciplinary action whenever an employee violates fire safety protocol to discourage carelessness. In addition to initial training, workers should receive periodic reminders about safety measures so they don’t forget anything.
2. Keep The Plant Clean
Loose debris like combustible dust is responsible for many industrial plant fires, yet it’s easy to overlook. Even materials that are safe in larger quantities can be flammable in dust form, so cleaning is essential to fire safety. Employees must regularly clean any areas that generate dust, no matter the material.
Apart from dust, clutter, in general, is a fire hazard. When materials pile up, it creates a large source of fuel that a rogue spark could ignite. Routine cleaning can ensure that there’s less fuel in the facility, reducing the risk of a fire.
3. Secure All Electrical Equipment
As more facilities embrace the tech-centric trend of Industry 4.0, the risk of electrical fires becomes a more pressing concern. Frayed wires, circuit overloads and high temperatures can turn electrical systems into an inferno under the right conditions. Given this threat, workers should inspect electrical equipment often to ensure it’s running as it should.
Insulation like heat shrink tubing can protect wires from environmental hazards, reducing the risk of sparking or overheating. Keeping flammable materials away from electrical equipment can also lessen the risk of a fire.
4. Install A Reliable Fire Suppression System
The best defense against plant fires is to stop them from happening in the first place. Still, the unexpected can happen, so it’s paramount to have a fire suppression system in place. If a fire does start, a reliable sprinkler system will minimize the damage.
Employers don’t have to provide fire extinguishers in some scenarios, but it’s a good idea to have them nonetheless. Facilities should also inspect all of their fire suppression systems regularly to ensure they’re in working order.
5. Review Fire Prevention Practices Regularly
Finally, safety officers or employers should make a habit of revisiting their fire prevention policies. This process should include ensuring employees are following not only what the rules are, but also safety guidelines. If any mistakes or weaknesses become apparent, facilities should address them as soon as possible.
It may prove helpful to hire an outside expert to review these policies. Having a third party’s opinion on the matter can help reveal weak points that insiders missed. Experts will also be able to make recommendations to improve fire prevention strategies.
Fires Are Serious, But Preventable
Fires are some of the most destructive incidents that can happen to a facility. As dangerous as they are, they don’t have to be a major threat. By following these steps, any facility can drastically reduce the risk of a fire.