Preventing Fires at Manufacturing Plants: 3 Key Points

February 3 2019

Preventing Fires at Manufacturing Plants: 3 Key Points

Fires at manufacturing facilities kill and injure hundreds of employees. They create billions of dollars’ worth of property damage each year. And generally speaking, they’re preventable.

While there is no such thing as a completely fireproof manufacturing plant, there are steps you can take to prevent fires and protect your business. Here are three important fire prevention points your facility needs to implement today.

1. Perform an In-Depth Hazard Assessment

Manufacturing facilities face more special fire hazards than other industries. From critical production equipment to electrical enclosures to storage and process areas, manufacturing plants require specialized knowledge and equipment to control potentially hazardous situations.

But the potential risks are not always obvious to people who aren’t trained fire protection professionals. While you may believe your facility is protected, you could be missing dangerous hazards.

A hazard assessment is not only intended to help your facility with code compliance, although that is certainly a benefit. Fire hazard assessments allow a professional to walk through your facility and identify fire and life safety risks that are putting your employees and your business in danger. You’ll not only gain an understanding of what the risks are, but you will also receive a complete plan for mitigating those risks.

2. Invest in Fire Protection Systems

Management often hesitates at some of the costs associated with fire protection. Purchasing state-of-the-art fire protection systems and equipment for new buildings or retrofitting older buildings with fire suppression systems can certainly be expensive.

But the cost of having a fire is much higher.

During 2011-2015, an estimated 37,000 fires at industrial or manufacturing properties (including the utility, defense, agriculture, mining sectors) were reported to U.S. fire departments each year. Those fires created annual losses of $1 billion in direct property damage.

But the cost of fire is even greater than the dollar amount of the damage. Consider the loss of business and production downtime that can occur as a result of a fire. If the damage is bad enough, you may even have to rebuild or relocate your facility—if your insurance will cover the costs. On top of that, bills keep coming in, even when production is stopped.

Beyond the financial costs of fire, it also takes a toll on human lives. In the same time period reported above, fires caused 16 civilian deaths and 273 civilian injuries at industrial and manufacturing properties.

Fire protection systems for manufacturing facilities are of vital importance for preventing costly fires. Don’t wait to install or upgrade a state-of-the art system; a fire in your plant will cost much more than a suppression system.

3. Train Your Employees in Fire Prevention and Safety

While fire protection systems are critical for any manufacturing facility, developing a culture of prevention is just as important. Protection equipment may extinguish a minor fire from getting out of control, but prevention stops the fire from starting in the first place.

In an NFPA study, heated equipment, shop tools and industrial equipment were found to be the leading causes of structural fires in industrial or manufacturing facilities. According to figures from Factory Mutual, three-fifths of fires and nearly three-fourths of property damage could be avoided through preventative maintenance and frequent inspection and testing. Make it a top priority to train all employees on fire prevention techniques such as proper maintenance and storage of materials.

In addition to training on fire prevention, employees at manufacturing facilities should also be trained in fire safety in case a fire does break out. Hands-on fire extinguisher training is required in every workplace, but it’s especially important in industries where the hazards are increased, such as manufacturing.

Depending on your type of plant, you could have a combination of Class A, B, C, and D fire extinguishers located within easy access of employees. Training staff on the proper operation of these extinguishers is a necessity for any manufacturing facility.

People often make the mistake of thinking that a fire won’t happen to them — not in their facility. But in manufacturing, the risks of fire are constant and varied. Take the necessary steps today to prevent your business from going up in smoke tomorrow.

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