Fire Safety for Manufacturing Business

Fire might be man's oldest friend, but it can still be a deadly enemy too. And in the workplace, nowhere is that more the case than in manufacturing.

Recent UK Manufacturing Fires

In the early hours of the morning, on the 11 December 2017, an explosion at the Timet UK metal smelting plant in Birmingham caused the death of a factory worker.

A few months earlier in June, the food and drink manufacturer, Princes, suffered a major blaze at their Bradford factory, one that required 60 firefighters to contain.

And in May, the Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) factory in Banbury was the location for a fire that necessitated fire crews from Bicester and Banbury fire stations and fire engines from Warwickshire and Northamptonshire to bring it under control.

Fire Safety Responsibilities

Despite a fire safety record in the UK that is healthier today than it was a generation ago, the above illustrates that blazes do still occur. The responsibility for stopping them breaking out in the first instance is, under UK law, very much placed on those in charge.

Under the 2005 The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, any person who has some level of control over premises must legally take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape should one occur.

And What if I Don’t Do Anything?

Well, the short answer is potential prosecution. Should a fire take place and you, as the ‘person in control’ is suspected of being negligent in your responsibilities, then depending on the severity of the outcome, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or the Police could choose to investigate.


And the number of prosecutions is increasing. In the year to 31 March 2016, for example, the HSE prosecuted 46 company directors and managers for health and safety violations, compared to just 12 for the year before. Of these, 12 were sentenced to prison.

What Do I Need to Do?

According to the Order, the ‘person in control’ must:

     Carry out a fire-risk assessment identifying any possible dangers and risks

     Consider who may be especially at risk

     Get rid of or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible and provide general fire precautions to deal with any possible risk left

     Create a plan to deal with any emergency and, in most cases, keep a record of the findings

     Review the findings when necessary

7 Common Fire Safety Risks to Keep in Mind

Taking Care with Hazardous Materials
Hazardous materials can act as fuel for any fire.  If you don’t have systems and procedures in place, such as safe areas for materials and activities or a ‘permit to work system’ then it's a very good idea to get something established. Equally, existing systems can be forgotten in day-to-day activities, so health and safety staff and fire marshals should be on the look-out for activities that don’t match up to best practice.

Clean Up That Dust!

You can’t eliminate dust entirely but if it settles on surfaces in sufficient volume (often in the roof) it can reach dangerous levels and become potentially combustible, resulting in explosion and fire. This can be avoided by adequate ventilation and by following a regular housekeeping regime.

What’s the Building Made Of?

The horrifying events at Grenfell Tower have thrown building construction under the spotlight. Fire Risk Assessments in the past have sometimes failed to take into account whether the materials used in construction are suitable. Make sure your assessment takes into account the material within the structure and also other elements of the building, such as its design and its occupancy levels.

Can Employees Use the Equipment Safely?

In 2013-2014 2,000 fires in UK workplaces were caused by a misuse of equipment. To help prevent this from happening in your business, ensure your staff are trained properly. It's also a good idea to ensure that safety equipment is available at all times.

Smoking: Keep it Under Control

It might be on the decline nationwide, but smoking is still another common cause of fire in the workplace, with over a third of deaths in non-domestic buildings being attributed to it. According to UNISON, employers with 'enclosed workspaces’ (which have to be smoke free) must by law,

     display no-smoking signs in workplaces and work vehicles
     take reasonable steps to make sure that staff, customers, members and visitors are aware that they may not smoke in the premises or in work vehicles
     make sure that no one smokes on the premises or in vehicles

Those who don’t have enclosed workspaces still have a responsibility not to expose their workers to hazards and must therefore take appropriate steps to prevent or minimise any risks from smoking.

What To Do What There’s Change

Updating your risk assessment is vital. Few businesses remain in a state of stasis and change is normal. With change can come new risks or alterations to old ones. Whether it's something like a new extension, the arrival of new machinery or a change in working practices, the effect on fire safety can be profound.

The Danger of Electricity

Electrical fires are one of the top five causes of fires in manufacturing plants and can be created by wiring that is exposed or fitted incorrectly, overloaded outlets, extension cords, overloaded circuits and machinery left untended.

Ensure that best practice is followed in the workplace:

     Don’t overload electrical equipment or circuits
     Don’t leave temporary equipment plugged in when it’s not in use
     Ensure that qualified professionals deal with all wiring issues
     Avoid using extension cords, and never consider them as long-term solutions

But Nothing Might Ever Happen?

Even if you’re lucky enough to not experience a fire, you can still get in trouble if your fire safety standards are poor. A visit from a local fire officer, as part of a fire safety audit will check that your fire risk assessment and fire prevention measures are appropriate. If they are not you can be served with an escalating list of notices, depending on the risk.

What if I ignore Them?

Well, you could be fined or go to prison if you don’t follow fire safety regulations. Minor penalties can be up to £5,000. Major penalties can have unlimited fines and up to 2 years in prison.


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