By their very nature, many different types of packaging materials can pose a fire hazard if not stored safely. The risk can increase for businesses which use a lot of this sort of material, from protective foam to heavy duty cardboard boxes, because of the sheer volume of materials involved.
The Health and Safety Executive says that the majority of fires are preventable and urges business owners to ensure their procedures and the behaviour of their staff are focussed on understanding and minimising the risks.
All fires need a source of heat or ignition, something to burn and oxygen. Heat sources can be anything from heaters and overheating machinery to electrical equipment and smoking materials, whilst sources of fuel include foam, plastic, rubber, paper and cardboard, wood and many other items commonly found in offices, factories and warehouse.
All building owners, occupiers and employers have a legal and moral obligation to carry out an assessment of the fire risk and ensure that this stays up to date. This can either be carried out at the same time as a more general risk assessment, or it can be seen as a totally separate exercise.
The findings of this assessment will be used to ensure that there are adequate fire-safety procedures being followed and that there is the minimum amount of risk of loss of life or injury if a fire were to occur.
Key Points to Consider
In order to minimise the risks, sources of heat or ignition must be kept apart from flammable substances. Use good housekeeping procedures to prevent dangerous rubbish from building up. Ensure there are adequate smoke and fire alarms and the right fire-fighting equipment to cope with all eventualities.
It is vital to keep escape routes and fire escapes clear and well signposted at all times and to make sure that staff members have received adequate training and know what to do in the event of a fire.
Fire and rescue services in individual areas have the responsibility for enforcing fire-safety regulations, although the HSE is responsible for enforcement on construction sites, on ships that are undergoing repair or construction and on nuclear premises.