In the 21st century, a time where we can travel through space and rely on robots to perform tasks, it’s a shame that industrial fires and explosions needlessly injure innocent people and damage infrastructure, technology and goods worth millions of dollars. In case we are under the impression that industrial fires are a thing of the past, it’s important to note that a massive fire engulfed a plastic factory in Mumbai just a few days into the New Year. The cause and fatalities of the fire have not yet been disclosed, however, the entire factory is in ruins. The last week of 2018 witnessed a huge fire which reduced a biscuit factory in Lucknow to ashes. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the entire factory was destroyed. With two isolated incidents which have unfolded in the past two months alone, it is apparent that there is still an issue that needs to be addressed when it comes to industries and commercial buildings – fire safety.
Let’s take a look at what you, as someone responsible for fire safety at your industrial establishment, can do to ensure the safety of the people.
Training beyond fire extinguishers
If you are an employee – when was the last time your company had a fire safety drill? Are you aware of what to do in case of a fire in your building? Do you know which routes to use to exit the building safely? And if you are an employer – when was the last time you conducted a fire safety drill for your employees? The Indian corporate structure does not give fire safety the importance it deserves which is a shame because it is a responsibility that employers must bear. Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is far from enough, in fact, it most industrial fires and explosions, a fire extinguisher is not going to do anything to make sure that people are unharmed. Employees need to be trained on how to operate fire alarm panels, and on how to evacuate the premises in a timely fashion so that there is no chaos, and everyone is safe.
Integrating fire safety
It’s always good to evaluate the risks of the premises, take into consideration the structure, the building materials itself, the equipment, the temperatures, and even the wall hangings and rugs. Make sure that the basic infrastructure is as fire resistant as possible. Depending on the size of the building, make sure that it is fitted with addressable or non-addressable fire alarm panels which connect a bunch of sensors and alarms to one central panel. Fire suppression systems must also be in place; these go a long way in making sure that a fire will not spread. The fire that destroyed the plastic factory in Mumbai a few weeks ago also took 6 godowns with it – a fire suppression system could have minimised this damage.
Taking precautions in high-risk areas
Industrial fires don’t necessarily start in the heart of a building, sometimes, it could be the parking lot or battery room that could cause a spark or any room with heavy machinery and high temperatures. In these areas, it is important to install gas detectors and heat detectors. Depending on the space, you’ll need a special gas detector, for example, an industrial kitchen would have LPG and CNG detectors, a parking space will need a carbon monoxide gas detector, and battery rooms will require a hydrogen gas detector. This is where a risk assessment will come in handy, let the experts tell you the detectors you need and for which parts.
Vacuuming of machinery on a daily basis
One of the most overlooked causes of industrial explosions is combustible dust. It is a risk in chemical manufacturing, manufacturing, woodworking, metal production and in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals because all these materials involved in these industries, whether it’s food dyes or metals are all combustible in dust form. The risk is that this dust comes into contact with an ignition, which can lead to an explosion when the dust becomes airborne. This is why it is important to make sure that the machinery is well maintained, and raw materials are efficiently stored at controlled temperatures.
Timely and routine maintenance and drills
To make sure all your fire safety panels and systems are in place and are up and functioning as they should, it’s important to ensure standard checks so that if an alarm system isn’t working, it can be fixed. It’s also important to go over drills and safety briefings with the workforce since they will be the crux of the situation if there was ever fire to break out. Timely checks and proper training in fire safety is key to avoiding disasters.
Prevention is always better than cure, which is why it’s in the best interest of everyone to regularly follow these tips so that one is not lost in times of emergency.
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