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Industrial Fires — Causes and Prevention



Industrial Fires — Causes and Prevention

Industrial fires cause businesses losses in millions. It can shut down a thriving business despite an insurance coverage. There is also a the very real and catastrophic danger to human life. This is why all industrial spaces are mandated by law to have a certain minimum fire protection. Yet, many companies — big and small — still violate this norm.

Unfortunately, this is not limited to small businesses that are cash-strapped or simply not interested in creating a fire safe infrastructure. Even larger industries and factories often ignore these rules. The reason can range from lack of their seriousness towards the issue or general apathy. Many do not even invest in basic safety practices like maintaining their equipment or buying equipment like fire safety helmets.

Common Causes of Industrial Fire

Before we think of the steps we must take, we have to first understand why fires break out. What are some of the most common causes of industrial fire?

Combustible dust

Industries are often quite full of industrial dust and it is rarely acknowledged or understood. Woodworking, food, chemical and metalworking factories have these small particles that can be very dangerous. This is because the dust is often more dangerous than the larger pieces. The problem with combustible dust is not as a source of fire, but what it does afterwards.

Fires usually breakout when a combustible source comes into contact with some kind of ignition source. This can cause a small breakout. But what makes it truly dangerous is when it spreads. This is where combustible dust comes in. It catches the fire already present and helps to spread it rapidly. Within minutes we have a situation which can go out of control. If there is enough dust that has settled, the fire hazard multiplies.

Ignoring storage regulations

We often think that only plants and factories that deal with hazardous material like fuel are in danger of an all-out fire disaster. But the truth is that most material can be highly combustible. Even cloth bales in a clothes manufacturing company can easily catch fire. But it is not just the raw material. We may also have flammable material stored on the premises that are essential for manufacturing process. For instance, diesel for the engines or chemicals used in certain processes.

But more than the material itself, it is the storage practices that actually prove more damaging. Most of these materials are allowed and essential in the industrial space. But they must be stored under the right regulations. They must be stored away from any ignition source. Typically, flammable material is stored at a cool space. There should be adequate fire fighting equipment nearby, including fire alarms and fire safety helmets for putting out any initial fires.

Work practices

There are some manufacturing processes that can increase the danger of fire. One of the essential requirements of a fire is ignition — heat or spark. This is where certain work processes like welding, soldering, heating, burning or brazing ends up providing the spark that starts a fire. When we are working with flammable material, such practices are best avoided. Yet, it is not always possible. Even in the lack of hazardous material, most industrial raw material are susceptible to fire.

This is why very strict policies must be followed when workers are engaged in such practices. Keep the area free of any flammable material. Make sure they are fully conversant with safety procedures. They should wear protective gear like fire safety helmets. There should be supervision and the provision for immediate assistance if a fore does break out.

Electrical hazards

A small spark in your wiring and it could be the end of everything! Common causes of electrical fires are overloaded circuits, exposed wires, static discharge or just plain wrong wiring. This is the small spark that can catch on rapidly and destroy everything within minutes. The only way to avoid this is by insisting on safe electrical outlets and practices. In addition, the workers at the premises must be taught about safety procedures so that no such incident occurs.

While we need to pay attention to some of these common causes, we also need to ensure that all fire fighting safety equipment like fire safety helmets are stocked and maintained properly on premises. When it comes to fire accidents, it pay to be cautious and ready for any accident.