How to prevent industrial fire outbreaks
Ever experienced a fire accident once before? You might want to share your experience after a few minutes. I will love to share a story of the first industrial fire accident I experienced before we go into learning ways to prevent fire outbreaks in different industries.
The first industrial fire accident I experienced was in the year 2019. I worked as an intern with an aluminium milling company where aluminium scraps are being melted to produce aluminium billets and slabs, which serve as raw materials for aluminium products. On a Wednesday, we started sensing smoke coming from the open space in the industry. This open space served as a site where aluminium slags are being deposited to cool off before being transported to areas where they are needed, mostly used in filling portholes on bad roads. Every worker in the industry knows what to do next as they are trained to handle fire accidents or outbreaks. The factory workers unwrapped the fire hose, opened the valves and directed the hose towards the fire, pointing the hose to the fire. The fire was contained and prevented from spreading into the factory with this practice. The factory workers would have prevented this fire if they had placed the hot aluminium slag for it to cool before transporting it to the bushy site with dry leaves. Fire outbreaks are as good as inevitable, but certain practices have to be in place to prevent the possible harms that fire accidents may cause. This article will highlight things to do to prevent possible fire accidents. But before we treat ways to prevent fire outbreaks, we need to identify the possible causes of fire accidents in industries.
Causes of industrial fire accidents
So many factors can cause fire accidents, but more especially the human factor, many mistakes and negligence from the human aspect can be costly and may lead to accidents that threaten lives. Apart from life loss, fire disasters can also cost the loss of properties worth millions of dollars. Therefore, safety practices are fundamental to put in place to prevent fire outbreaks. Below are some factors that can cause fire accidents;
Improper management of combustible dust:
Some industries deal with highly deadly combustible dust in the case of woodworking, food manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and metalworking. Products like food, dyes, chemicals, and metals, even products that are not combustible in their large piece, might be highly combustibles in their dust form. A fire can start when a combustible material comes in contact with an ignition source but starts as a small fire not until it reaches the combustible dust lurking around the factory where the small fire explodes into something bigger and more dangerous. The graduation of the fire from a primary explosion to a secondary explosion is caused by the presence of combustible dust, which can lead to a potential bring down of the factory. The primary ingredient, dust, needs to be eliminated and avoided from unnecessary accumulation to prevent dust explosions from occurring in a factory.
Inappropriate handling of flammable liquids and gas:
Fires in chemical plants can be highly disastrous due to flammable materials (gases and liquids) such as rocket fuel (which produces a flammable gas), acrylic acid, and crude oil. Fire outbreaks are bound to happen when working with highly flammable materials; therefore, some preventive measures must be in place to avoid fire disasters.
How to prevent flammable liquid and gas incidents
- Take note of the safety information provided by the manufacturers of the flammable materials usually provided on the packaging of the materials.
- Store all flammable gases and liquids properly using the OSHA-compliant procedures.
- Keep all ignitions sources as far away as possible unless intentionally needed around the flammable material.
- Always provide personal protective equipment to workers around the factory.
Industrial activities such as welding, torch cutting, brazing, burning, heating, and soldering pose a fire hazard threat in factories, and this is because the sparks and molten material dropped from the process, which reach temperatures greater than 1000°F, can easily travel more than 35 feet and can cause fire accidents. They can also be seen as the major ignition source for fire incidents caused by flammable dust.
How to prevent hot work incidents
- Avoid hot work if possible. However, it might be tough to avoid the process in many industries if there is any feasible alternative.
- Organise training for personnel in the factory on hazards associated with hot work. This training can be done by hiring the service of a consulting firm that deals with fire protection services, such as Maxserve Global Consulting Limited.
- Ensure the work area is clear of flammable materials, including dust, to avoid explosions.
- Always assign safety personnel to supervise the work, especially contractors.
Incidents from mechanical equipment and machinery:
Mechanical parts produce friction and therefore produce heat. If machinery parts are not properly maintained, the chances of the cause of a hazardous fire explosion are high. Therefore, good preventive maintenance schemes are recommended for machine parts, such as frequent lubrication to reduce the amount of friction and the possibility of igniting a spark that can lead to an explosion.
How to prevent equipment and machinery incidents
- Create awareness and train factory workers on safety measures to prevent possible fire disasters in the workshop.
- Mechanical equipment in industries is usually covered with grease and other lubricants due to unavoidable leakages in some machines. Adequate cleaning of the machine’s environment to remove the oil leakages will go a long way in preventing possible fire outbreaks.
- The factory workers should do maintenance practices on each plant’s equipment and machinery following the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Electrical components in the factory can be the cause of fire accidents also. In some cases where there are either overloaded circuits or outlets, exposed wiring, or static discharge, electric sparks can quickly come up, which might serve as an ignition to combustible materials in the factory and might lead to a large explosion.
How to prevent electrical fire incidents
- Avoid overloading electrical equipment or circuits.
- Make sure there are no exposed wires in the wiring system.
- Always remember to unplug temporary electrical equipment when not in use.
Safety practices to prevent fire accidents
Since we have highlighted a few causes of industrial fire accidents, we can now discuss some safety practices meant to prevent such incidents from occurring in the factory in the future.
Frequent hazard analysis:
The entire factory has to be inspected from time to time, especially when new equipment is being installed in the factory. Fire safety experts, such as Maxserve Global Consults, are meant to be hired to carry out the complete inspection of the factory to recognise where the most significant risk in the factory lie and ways in which it can be well controlled or managed.
Provide fire safety training seminars:
Every worker in a factory needs to be trained on the fire safety practices in the factory in case of emergency fire outbreaks. Many expert agencies offer this service and take it as a duty to train every worker in an organisation on what they are expected to do to prevent fire accidents or what action to take whenever there is a fire disaster in the factory.
Establish fire accident prevention and emergency procedures:
Policies and procedures guiding the practices in the workshop in line with the safety practices should be placed in the form of posters or paper documents in strategic locations in the factory to ensure the safety practices by workers in the factory.
Design and implement a working housekeeping routine:
Though prevented, there is still a chance that sparks can occur anytime in the factory, leading to ignition and fire explosion. Since this fact is well known, it is only safe always to make sure that there is no combustible material around the factory that can act as fuel in terms of fire accidents. Therefore, a good cleaning routine will go a long way in preventing fire accidents.
Proper inspection and maintenance of equipment and systems:
Keeping all equipment in the factory in excellent working condition helps a lot in preventing fire outbreaks. Likewise, proper inspection of the fire safety equipment, such as the conditions of the fire extinguishers in the workshop, helps prevent shocking scenarios in periods where this equipment is needed to prevent a fire outbreak.
Fire safety practices cannot be ignored as fire is one of the prevalent causes of death and injuries to the human species. According to the World Health Rankings on the World Life Expectancy website, African countries suffer the higher rates of deaths caused by fire. The Ivory Coast topped the list with a 12.12% rate, and Nigeria in the seventeenth position with a rate of 6.83%. Therefore, African countries have to start taking fire safety practices as necessary.