A large part of our business involves cardboard boxes, and so we spend a huge amount of time extolling the virtues of this particular packaging choice. Yes, we think that boxes are best, but as a responsible manufacturer and retailer, we also feel the need to focus from time to time on the serious matter of safety and the need to protect your staff, premises, livelihood and wider community when storing cardboard boxes, either after or before they have been used.
We’ve talked about the issue in our blog before, but it has been thrown into sharp focus once again by news that a headline-grabbing blaze in a building used to store fireworks was started by cardboard boxes catching fire. We don’t know all of the details of the case, but we do know that an investigation into the fire, which set off massive explosions in the building, has just announced that cardboard boxes were set alight.
It’s very important to point out that cardboard boxes are not unsafe. In fact, it is hard to imagine a safer form of packaging, but there are dangers that can rear their ugly heads if human error comes into play – whether you’re dealing with cardboard, paper or other combustible materials.
In the case of the Southern Firework Factory fire in Southampton on May 13, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service found that cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic had been stacked near to a 300w light bulb. It is such a simple mistake, but one that could easily have been avoided.
Fortunately, in this case nobody was injured. The firework store and a florist next door were destroyed, however, and an adjoining office was seriously damaged. The blaze also caused the evacuation of properties and homes within 100 metres of the fire and the closure of the local primary school.
So how do you prevent a similar event happening in your business? Common sense will always be key, as will compliance with legislation and a commitment to ensuring that every person in your workplace is aware of the dangers of placing combustible materials such as cardboard too close to a source of ignition.
It is also important to regularly evaluate the way in which your business stores combustibles like cardboard and paper and to assess whether improvements could be made. You might consider, for example, investing in shredding machinery – and forgive us if this seems like a shameless promotion – such as an Intimus Pacmaster to minimise the amount of waste materials being stored.