Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is Editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
February 18, 2019

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Fire Protection

Fire protection guidelines issued for automated warehouses

Fire protection guidance for warehouses staffed by robots has been published by property insurer FM Global. IFSEC Global Editor Adam Bannister reports.

Robotic arm in warehouseProtection for Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) includes advice on sprinkler arrangement, independence of in-rack and ceiling sprinkler systems, container design and racking structure.

The guidance arrives in the wake of a fire that gutted an Ocado warehouse in Andover, Hampshire earlier this month. Despite the efforts of around 200 firefighters, the fire raged for 48 hours before being extinguished.

Spanning 18 acres the site was manned by 1,100 cuboid swarm robots, which collected groceries from crates and delivered them to a packing station.

“The Ocado warehouse fire is a stark reminder of the instantaneous impact that fire can have on a major business, its operations, and share price,” said Dr James L D Glockling, technical director at the Fire Protection Association. “Automated warehousing facilities present significant fire protection challenges as a result of very high storage densities, limited access, electronic conveyancing systems, high racking, and cold storage requirements.”

A growing number of companies are automating warehouses to boost productivity and lower operating costs.

But if robotics increases efficiency then they also introduce new fire risks – not least the potential for robots themselves to overheat. Automated systems might also over-pack facilities, stack products too high and use flammable plastic containers that can trap water emitted by sprinklers.

“Careful design and configuration can help companies quickly suppress fires and stay in business,” said Brion Callori, senior vice president and manager, engineering and research, at FM Global. “The goal is to let robots, which in science fiction always seem to run amok, deliver the quiet efficiency they promise in the real world.”

This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.

Fire safety in 2020 eBook – A year of challenges and change

Download the Fire Safety in 2020 eBook, from IFSEC Global and FIREX International, to keep up-to-date with the biggest stories of the year. It includes the latest legislation, Grenfell Tower Inquiry revelations and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected professionals in the sector.

Related Topics

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Litchfield
David Litchfield
2 years ago

I find it somewhat bizarre that you reference FM Global “fire protection guidance” for automated warehouses in the “wake” of the Ocado fire, when FM Global presented Ocado Engineering their prestigious HPR Gold award less than six months prior to the warehouse burning down. Has something in the guidance changed since the fire? If so, can you enlighten us as to what…