Tania Tucker from the Environmental Agency (EA) provides us with information on the necessity of Fire Prevention Plans (FPPs).
There were 21 fires at End of Life Vehicle (ELV) sites in 2016 and 24 fires in 2017. Some of these had severe environmental and financial consequences. So far in 2018 we have had reports of several fires, including two recent ones that made national news. One of these fires closed Coventry airport and another fire resulted in the public being warned of the potential for asbestos debris being deposited.
Why do I need a fire prevention plan (FPP) for my site?
Fire can have severe consequences on the environment, people and property. A fire can also cost your business in a lot of different ways:
- loss of stock and parts
- loss of business
- significant clean-up costs.
- increased insurance premium costs
- company reputation, if a fire affects salvage vehicles
- compensation claims could be made if railway lines, airports or other infrastructure are affected by the fire
- where roads are closed to enable firefighting there will be disruption and impacts for neighbouring businesses and communities.
FPP – Guidance
During 2016 we published Fire Prevention Plan guidance and set out 3 main objectives and the measures designed to meet them. These are:
- minimise the likelihood of a fire happening
- aim for a fire to be extinguished within 4 hours
- minimise the spread of fire within the site and to neighbouring sites
We know that where this guidance is followed at ELV sites the impact and severity of fires is reduced and the fire can be extinguished within four hours. This will reduce the knock-on effects of a fire upon your site and your business.
Alternative measures to those set out in our FPP guidance can also be agreed for your FPP. Alternative measures will be specific to your site, location and operations, but they must meet the three objectives above.
Preventing fires – common causes of fires at ELV sites
- Batteries in ELVs short circuiting
- Unsafe depollution practices
- Poor storage of fuels
- Fuel igniting when cutting/crushing vehicles
- Intentional burning getting out of control (e.g. brazier)
- Preventing fires doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. It starts with looking at your site and operations to identify the fire risk they pose. There are simple steps that can be taken to prevent these causes of fires. These can include disconnecting (and preferably removing) batteries as soon as reasonably practical after vehicles arrive on site, to reduce the risk of electrical short circuits. Using intrinsically safe depollution equipment (rather than draining fuel tanks using drills or chisels), storing fuel in containers designed to store it – not buckets! Enforcing a no smoking policy for both staff and customers, and ensuring vehicles are fully depolluted before crushing and shredding.
- During prolonged, hot and dry spells take care to ensure oily rags and absorbents are kept in cool places and out of sunlight. This reduces the risk of spontaneous combustion. If you carry out cutting and hot works on site there is a higher risk of accidental fires in hot dry periods because of vegetation is tinder dry. You may want to increase your fire watch and/or move areas where hot works and cutting take place away from vegetated areas.
- Although the risk of fires at ELV sites can’t be completely removed, it’s really simple to reduce the risk using a few rules and this could save your business, or even a life.