Freelance tech writer for IFSEC Global

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A tech writer specialising in cybersecurity, working with Redscan on this and a number of other GDPR, MDR, and ethical hacking projects.

September 5, 2019

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Fire safety

The most common causes of warehouse fires

A fire breaking out in a warehouse can be one of the real nightmare scenarios for a business, so it is no surprise that organisations are keen to minimise the risk of warehouse fires. Dakota Murphey reports for SHP’s sister -site, IFSEC Global.

Fire in the factoryIt’s not just the threat of losing expensive business equipment and stock, warehouse fires also endanger the lives of staff and put people at risk of injuries.

It is vital for companies to take their fire safety seriously especially in a warehouse environment. And one of the best ways to do this is to prevent them entirely. To do so, you need to have a good idea of what actually causes warehouse fires to occur, so that you can put measures in place to minimise the risk. Here we take a look some of the major causes of warehouse fires, as well as how to prevent them from breaking out.

Common causes of warehouse fires

Understanding the common causes of warehouse fires puts you in a good position to do the best possible work you can do for fire safety – preventing them before they have the opportunity to start. Some of the common causes are fairly predictable, but others might surprise you.

  • Fires that are set intentionally – it is unfortunately the case that by far one of the most common causes of warehouse fires are those that are deliberately started, known officially as arson. There are suggestions that arson cases make up nearly one third of all fire-related property damage and 18% of specific warehouse fires. These arson cases could be a result of a deliberate petty criminal act or even as a part of insurance fraud.
  • Problems with electricity and lighting – coming in at a very close second place of causes of warehouse fires is issues with electrical and lighting equipment. These types are fires are typically less damaging to properties than intentionally started fires, but they are still a major problem for those in charge of warehouse fire safety. This is something that those in charge of warehouse safety need to take very seriously.
  • Heating equipment – be careful when you are heating up a warehouse during the colder months because while this can be an essential part of the smooth running of your operation, it can be a serious fire risk. Around eight per cent of warehouse fires are caused by heating equipment, making it the third most common cause of fire in this setting.
  • Exposure – the next most common cause of warehouse fires is something called ‘exposure’. This is a specific firefighting term that refers to materials that are combustible but that are not currently on fire. So, this applies to warehouses that contain large amounts of materials that could catch fire if they were exposed to a flame or heat source. Exposures account for around seven per cent of warehouse fires.
  • Smoking materials – it is probably no surprise, but it is still important to note here that the materials involved in smoking are the cause of a large number of warehouse fires. Cigarettes, cigars, and lighters are responsible for around five per cent of the total number of warehouse fires.

What can you do to prevent them?

There are many things that businesses can be to minimise their risk of fires occurring. Here are three key things that you need pay attention to in your warehouse.

  • Fire risk assessments – it is a legal requirement to have a fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, however not all assessments are created equal. It is advisable to have professionals manage this process for you to ensure that it is carried out correctly.
  • Smoke detectors – you should ensure that you have smoke detectors installed across your warehouse paying special attention to any areas that may be vulnerable to fire breaking out. Some owners worry about the prospect of putting detectors in place with a sprinkler system because they are concerned an overzealous system could be set off incorrectly and items could be ruined. However, it is always more important to think about safety.
  • Fire extinguishers – you should have appropriate fire extinguishers in place across your warehouse, however it is important to note that fire extinguishers should only be used appropriately.
This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.

Barbour Download: A Technical Guide to Sprinkler Systems

There is no general legal requirement for sprinkler systems to be installed in a place of work but there may be circumstances where sprinklers are required.

This guide provides an overview of the need-to-know information for sprinklers and covers:

  • The legal requirements
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  • Key actions
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