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FireVu discusses fire safety measures for reducing fires in manufacturing facilities

Fires need to be addressed early, the danger is that blazes can quickly spread
The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 assesses workplace dangers for fire and explosion hazard identification

Manufacturing facilities are highly vulnerable to fire. Flammable materials, multiple sources of ignition and malfunctioning machinery parts can lead to disastrous fires for firms.

Ali Aleali at fire detection solution provider FireVu, specialises in food, drinks, pharmaceuticals and chemicals manufacturing. Ali discusses the causes and how manufacturing firms can manage the threat effectively.

Manufacturing fires cannot be eliminated.

Highly combustible substances are generally present in the process materials used as well as the product itself. Thousands of litres of flammable oil, sprays and lubricants in close proximity with a malfunctioning bearing or the friction of a trapped part can lead to a catastrophic fire.

The results of manufacturing fires can often be fatal.

Yet, even when circumstance luckily avoids casualties, the damage to the firm can be drastic and irreversible.

In the case of Wessex Foods, which supplied meat products for 500 UK Burger King outlets, it is believed chemical cannisters (of several possible causes) most likely led to the fire in July 2010 that led to its permanent closure.

What is beyond dispute is that despite the best efforts of 100 firefighters, using 50 million litres of water, the plant could not be saved. The Lowestoft plant had to let all 150 workers go. The company was devastated.

As disastrous as the fire was, it could have been more catastrophic for Wessex Foods, the local community and nearby firms. Only luck and the emergency services ensured the disaster was contained to the facility.

The dangers inherent in manufacturing and processing

he sources of danger are as diverse as the manufacturing sector. The food processing industry’s danger points include:

  • Ovens and conveyor belts driven by motors and pumps
  • Flammable hydraulic fluids, which power conveyor belts.
  • Dusts prone to combustion including: flour, custard powder, instant coffee, sugar, dried milk, potato powder and soup powder
  • Finely sprayed oils, mixing with flammable solvents such as ethanol or sterilisation techniques such as high temperature drying or spraying with hydrogen peroxide solutions
  • Flammable gas fuels for ovens, flammable liquids and vapours (spirit based flavourings and cooking/coating oils).

 These are not small quantities. The fire at Windsor Foods in LA was fuelled by more than 4,000 gallons of highly flammable soy bean oil. However, smaller quantities do not mean that fire risk is significantly lessened.

Ignition energies vary with different substances and for similar materials with differing moisture content and particle size. Even a low energy static discharged from a synthetic fibre jumper can trigger an ignition.

The danger does not need to be impressed upon the health and safety professional, it is self-evident that appropriate measures must be in place.

he sources of danger are as diverse as the manufacturing sector. The food processing industry’s danger points include:

  • Ovens and conveyor belts driven by motors and pumps
  • Flammable hydraulic fluids, which power conveyor belts.
  • Dusts prone to combustion including: flour, custard powder, instant coffee, sugar, dried milk, potato powder and soup powder
  • Finely sprayed oils, mixing with flammable solvents such as ethanol or sterilisation techniques such as high temperature drying or spraying with hydrogen peroxide solutions
  • Flammable gas fuels for ovens, flammable liquids and vapours (spirit based flavourings and cooking/coating oils).

 These are not small quantities. The fire at Windsor Foods in LA was fuelled by more than 4,000 gallons of highly flammable soy bean oil. However, smaller quantities do not mean that fire risk is significantly lessened.

Ignition energies vary with different substances and for similar materials with differing moisture content and particle size. Even a low energy static discharged from a synthetic fibre jumper can trigger an ignition.

The danger does not need to be impressed upon the health and safety professional, it is self-evident that appropriate measures must be in place.

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