While every property contains some form of fire risk, some are at a greater risk than others and are more susceptible to fires, especially those that use flammable materials and heavy machinery to work with.
Factories are used for a range of operations including manufacturing and assembly, where there are lots of people working on different things, sometimes round the clock.
With so much going on, there are many opportunities for accidents to happen, especially if the people aren’t careful and properly trained. These accidents may often result in fires, causing harm to both human life and property.
Such incidents aren’t just a safety hazard for those on the premises but also result in financial losses in terms of property damage and downtime.
What causes factory fires and what can be done to minimise this risk? Read on to find out all about the best fire safety practices and the best fire alarm systems for factories:
WHAT ARE THE FIRE RISKS IN FACTORIES?
Before we talk about ways to minimise fire risks in factories, we need to understand what causes them. Some of the top fire risks in factories include:
Regardless of how sophisticated and high-grade the machinery is in a factory, it can be susceptible to faults and fire risks.
Most of the time, these faults are minor and easily fixable without causing any serious issues. However, things like oil and toxic material spillages (both of which are highly flammable), coupled with the machinery heating up and electric sparks can quickly turn them into a full-fledged fire if not cleaned up immediately.
All factories, regardless of their size, have some sort of stock or inventory stored for their manufacturing processes and final products. This stock can become a serious fire hazard especially if it is flammable and not stored properly.
For instance, if you consider a furniture factory, a paper factory, or a clothing factory, there are thousands of flammable materials and products that can catch fire at the smallest spark.
This can become an even serious hazard if the stock is large in volume and stored in a large area with no divided sections.
Electrical faults are a fire hazard in every property and not just in factories. However, due to the scale of operations and activity, and with heavy machinery constantly in use, there are more chances of an electric overload and sparks.
With the strain that this puts on the factory’s electrical system, there is always a chance of an electrical fire starting and spreading across the factory, unless precautionary safety measures are taken.
Kitchens and break rooms have appliances such as stoves, microwaves, toasters, and ovens which, if not used properly and left on overnight, may increase fire risk.
Although this is a risk in any workplace with a kitchen and break room, and is also true for all residential properties, it is something that factory owners and workers must also pay attention to.
Poor fire training
The employees and workers are the backbones of any workplace, whether it is an office or a factory. What they do and how they run and manage the operations play a huge part in the overall safety and security of a factory.
If they are not adequately trained on how to prevent fires and what to do in case one breaks out, it can put everyone in the factory at risk.
FIRE SAFETY IN FACTORIES – WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Fires in factories are a serious hazard that can injure and kill employees and cause huge financial losses in terms of property damage and downtime.
The good news is that they are preventable. While there is no such thing as completely fire-proofing a factory, you can take steps to prevent them from occurring and save valuable lives and property in the process.
Here are 3 of the most important fire safety measures that you need to adopt and implement throughout the factory:
Perform an in-depth fire risk assessment
It is a fact that factories face a bigger fire hazard than other properties due to the nature of the work. From using heavy machinery to storing flammable and hazardous materials, factories require special care and attention when it comes to fire safety.
The issue here is that while it is obvious that there are quite a few fire risks, what exactly they are might not be so obvious to people who aren’t trained fire safety professionals.
Due to that, even though you may think your facility is protected against fire, it is actually not and you may be missing out and ignoring dangerous hazards.
To help you understand what the risks are and how protected your factory is against fire, you need to conduct a thorough risk assessment.
Invest in an effective fire alarm system
One of the best ways to prevent fires in factories is to have an effective fire alarm system in place that alerts you at the earliest signs of a fire so that you can take the necessary action while facing minimal damage.
A fire protection system can be anything from as simple as a hand-held fire extinguisher to a complex fire detection and suppression system that helps in not just identifying fire risks but also in extinguishing the flames before they get a chance to spread.
Fire alarm systems are made up of several devices that all work together to detect the earliest signs of a fire and alert the people nearby of the emergency using audible and visual signals.
They are a vital part of factory safety since they use advanced sensors to identify a fire using signs that may not be visible to the naked eye and give the occupants of the building enough time to evacuate safely.
Some fire alarm systems are also connected to a professional monitoring centre and send instant alerts to the fire and safety services for immediate emergency response.
Train your employees in fire prevention and safety
While it is very important to invest in fire protection systems in any manufacturing facility, it is just as important to develop a culture of prevention among the employees and factory workers.
Fire alarm and protection systems help identify fire and stop it from getting out of control, but preventative measures stop the fire from starting in the first place.
A majority of fires in factories could be avoided through preventative practices and regular inspection and testing, which is why it must be your top priority to train all your employees and workers on the best fire prevention techniques.
In addition to training on the best fire prevention practices, they must also be trained on what to do and the best course of action in case a fire does break out.
A couple of hours must be set aside every year to educate and train employees and workers about fire safety.
It should include topics on the location of fire extinguishers and other equipment, instructions on how to use them, identification of all fire exits and evacuation routes, general knowledge on how fires can start and spread, and how to respond to and remain calm during a fire emergency.
TYPES OF FIRE ALARM DETECTORS IN FACTORIES
Detection devices are what lies at the core of a fire alarm system. From intelligent smoke detectors to manually operated break glass units, various types of fire alarm detectors can be used in factories.
Some of the most common ones include:
Heat detectors can work in one of two ways; on a fixed temperature basis where the alarm will be triggered if the temperature exceeds a set value, or on the rate of temperature change.
They work in a similar way to an electrical fuse where the detector contains a heat-sensitive eutectic alloy that turns from a solid to a liquid when a certain temperature is reached and triggers the alarm.
Smoke detectors come in 3 basic types: ionisation, light scattering, and light obscuring smoke detectors.
Ionisation smoke detectors contain two chambers: the first is used as a reference to assess changes in the ambient temperature, humidity, and pressure, and the second contains a radioactive source that ionises the air passing through it where there is a flow of current between two electrodes.
When the smoke enters the second chamber, the flow of current decreases signifying the presence of fire, hence, triggering the alarm.
Light scattering smoke detectors have a photocell and a light source that are separated from each other using a darkened chamber.
Once smoke enters the chamber, it causes the light from the source to scatter and fall on the photocell. This confirms the presence of a fire and initiates the alarm.
In light obscuring smoke detectors, there is a light source throwing a light beam at a photocell that measures the amount of light it receives.
The presence of smoke interferes with the light beam between the light source and photocell and the variation in the photocell output triggers the alarm.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is a poisonous gas produced as a result of combustion. CO detectors are used to indicate the presence of fire by detecting the levels of CO in the air.
They have an electrochemical cell and are used to detect only carbon monoxide levels and not smoke or any other combustible gases.
Multi-point detectors combine inputs from various sensors, such as optical and heat sensors, and process them using an advanced algorithm.
They are designed to be sensitive to a wide range of fires and trigger the alarm based on the combined responses from the multiple sensors.
Manual call points
A manual call point also called a break glass point, is a device that allows individuals to raise an alarm by breaking the glass. Instead of relying on automatic sensors, these systems rely on people and their observation skills to detect a fire.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS
Fire alarm systems can be broken down into three main types: conventional, addressable, and wireless. Let’s look at each one in detail:
Conventional fire alarm systems
Conventional fire alarms are the most common type of fire alarm system and use physical cabling to interconnect various call points and detectors to the main control unit.
These call points and detectors are all arranged in zones so that it becomes easier to locate the source of the alarm.
Each zone is indicated with an indicator lamp, text, or both, at the control panel. The more the number of zones, the more accurate it becomes to locate the fire.
Addressable fire alarm systems
Addressable fire alarms work in a similar way as conventional systems except that instead of being divided into broad zones, each detector is given a set address which makes it easier to determine the exact location of the alarm trigger.
These are useful in large premises such as factories and multi-storey manufacturing plants where the exact location of the detectors minimises time wastage in trying to locate the fire.
Wireless fire alarm systems
Wireless fire alarm systems are an alternative to traditional wired systems and utilise secure radio communication to connect the components of the system.
In simple words, it provides all the benefits of an intelligent fire alarm system without the need for cabling.
Other than that, fire alarm systems are also divided into various grades and categories. The three main categories are category M (manual), category L (life protection), and category P (property protection).
All fire alarm systems under category M are manual systems where, as discussed above, the alarm needs to be manually activated by someone using a break glass unit. These are pretty basic systems and rely on people to discover the fire and take the necessary action.
Category L systems are all made for life protection and are further divided into 5 types; L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5, with L1 being the most advanced and L5 offering only localised protection.
While category L systems are designed to protect life, category P systems are focused on protecting property. These are divided into 2 types; P1 and P2, with P1 offering complete protection for the earliest possible warning and P2 for only specific parts of a building.
CONTACT CALDER SECURITY
At Calder Security, we offer you a comprehensive solution for your factory fire safety needs that include professional installation, maintenance, monitoring, and repair.
We understand that every factory is different and the specification of the system depends on several factors including the type and size of the factory, the nature of the work, and the number of employees and staff.
We can help you cut through all that and advise you on the best fire detection system for your factory that complies with British Standards, HSE, Building Regulations, and Fire Officer Guidelines, in addition to meeting the requirements of business insurance.
We also understand fire regulations and provide professional maintenance checks and reminders for when the checks are due to help you stay compliant with the law. We work fast to restore your fire alarm system to excellent condition and always strive to meet your expectations.
We offer various levels of monitoring via a 24-hour monitoring centre using Dualcom and BT Redcare signalling, which is the most secure alarm monitoring system and the largest supplier of intelligent alarm signalling services in the UK.
If your system starts to malfunction, you can rely on our highly skilled engineers to restore your system to full working order in one visit. We offer a 24-hour call-out service for customers and can also repair fire alarms not installed by us thanks to our extensive knowledge and experience.
Contact us here or call us today free on 0800 612 9799 to talk to our experts right away!