Fire suppression systems: A staff training guide
Fire can have devastating consequences on both human lives and property. In industrial settings, where plant and equipment are in constant operation, the risk of fire is an ever-present concern. To mitigate this risk and protect employees and assets, it's crucial to have an effective fire suppression system in place. Equally important, however, is ensuring that personnel are well-trained in fire prevention and suppression.
Here, we provide an overview of the topics operators must receive training on, including common sources of fire on plant and equipment, fire prevention best practices, visual fire suppression system checks, what to do in the event of a fire, and automatic and manual system operation.
How fires start: Common sources of fire on plant and equipment
Understanding how fires can start is the first step in preventing them. Staff must be informed on common sources of fire in industrial settings, which include:
- Electrical faults: Overloaded circuits, damaged wiring, and faulty electrical equipment can spark fires.
- Combustible materials: The presence of flammable liquids, gases, or solids increases the risk of fire.
- Hot work: Welding, cutting, and grinding operations generate sparks and high temperatures that can ignite nearby materials.
- Mechanical failures: Friction, overheating, or mechanical malfunctions in machinery can lead to fires.
- Human error: Accidents such as improper storage of materials, negligence in using equipment, or failing to follow safety protocols can result in fires.
Fire prevention best practices
From power plants to waste management sites, preventing fires is far more effective than dealing with their consequences, not to mention a legal obligation. To reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out, personnel must follow these best practices:
- Regular inspections: Conduct routine inspections of equipment, wiring, and storage areas to identify and rectify potential fire hazards.
- Proper storage: Store flammable materials in designated areas, ensuring they’re well-ventilated and away from heat sources.
- Electrical safety: Use proper wiring, circuit breakers, and outlets. Train employees to report and address electrical issues promptly.
- Hot work safety: Implement strict protocols for hot work, including fire-resistant barriers, extinguishers, and permits.
- Training: Provide comprehensive fire safety training for all staff members, emphasising the importance of prevention and early intervention.
Visual fire suppression system checks
Regular visual checks of fire suppression systems are vital to ensure they’re performing as they should. Here's what to train responsible staff to look for:
- Fire alarms: Ensure that fire alarm systems are functional, and alarms are easily visible and audible.
- Emergency lighting: Verify that emergency lighting systems are operational and provide adequate illumination during power outages.
- Fire exit signage: Ensure fire exit signs are well-maintained and properly illuminated.
What to do in the event of a fire
In the event of a fire, every second counts. Ensure your staff know what to do:
- Sound the alarm: Activate the fire alarm to alert everyone in the facility.
- Evacuate: Follow established evacuation procedures, using designated exit routes.
- Call for help: Dial emergency services immediately to report the fire.
- Use fire extinguishers: If it's safe to do so, use fire extinguishers to attempt to contain small fires.
- Wait for professionals: Leave firefighting to trained professionals. Evacuate the premises and await the arrival of the fire department.
Automatic and manual system operation
Fire suppression systems come in various forms, including automatic and manual systems. It's crucial to understand their operation:
- Automatic systems: These systems detect fires using heat or smoke sensors and deploy fire-suppressing agents automatically. Staff should be aware of these systems and their activation process but should not attempt to interfere with them unless necessary for safety.
- Manual systems: Manual fire suppression systems, such as fire extinguishers, require human intervention. Staff should be trained in their use and be familiar with the different types of extinguishers and the types of fires they’re suitable for.
Protecting plant and equipment from fire is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. By ensuring staff are well-trained, understand common sources of fires and fire prevention best practices, as well as how to conduct regular visual checks, the risk of fires and their impact if they occur can be minimised. Fire suppression systems are essential safety solutions, and knowing when and how to use them can make all the difference in ensuring the safety of employees and longevity of assets.