Don’t Play With Fire 30 Jan 2019
Kevin Swann, Managing Director of Kentec, a leading life safety control systems manufacturer, discusses fire safety in waste management and recycling plants, using a recent installation at Grundon’s new Bulk recycling facility in Banbury as an example of how fire systems can be used to protect large and complex facilities.
Fire safety in the recycling and waste management sector is critical. Waste is often readily combustible and once started, fires can be extremely hard to extinguish, sometimes taking days to put out. In addition to threatening human life, the environmental impact can significant, from air polluting smoke to firewater run-off damaging drainage systems, rivers and lakes, groundwater and soil.
Assessing the risks
Waste recycling typically generates heat, leading to the risk of explosions that can harm people and spread fire. There are also the costs associated with business interruption, and the strain placed on the Fire and Rescue Services. Insurance premiums are also likely to rise significantly after a fire event, and it is the owners’ responsibility to ensure all risks specific to their sites have been accounted for and appropriate solutions put in place.
Fire Risk assessments are the first place to start, and require competent advice.
Broadly speaking, a fire risk assessment involves: identifying the location(s) on site of combustible and/or flammable materials; identifying potential ignition sources; assessing who or what may be affected; and how this information can be used to develop a plan that includes controls and measures that reduce the risk of a fire occurring, and mitigates the damage should a fire occur.
Waste management sites will have various areas with differing levels of risks, including but not restricted to: the ‘goods-in’/reception area where incoming wastes are discharged; the treatment or processing area where wastes are sorted, shredded, dried, etc.; warehousing facilities where waste is stored; the weighbridge; the administrative offices and welfare facilities etc.
Fire hazards within waste management and recycling plants: A combination of which creates unique risks.
- Lithium batteries
- Green waste
- Hot-works (welding, grinding and cutting)
- Dust explosions
- Faulty machinery
- Electrical equipment
- Green waste
A recent waste management fire report* found that 31% of fires were likely caused by hot or hazardous materials such as hot ashes, lithium batteries, gas cylinders, flammable liquids and aerosols. The next most common cause of fire is self-heating, both in waste management and storage, with 24% of fires started as a result. ]
Some of the controls and measures integral to a fire plan will be procedural, involving evacuation procedures, and also physical, including practicalities such as the segregation of combustible materials, regular cleaning and maintenance programmes, and site shut down procedures.
The plan will also include proposals regarding appropriate fire-fighting equipment, which can include analogue and addressable fire control panels, detection devices, extinguishant systems and extinguishers, as well as a range of signs, alerts and site management software designed to provide the most efficient and effective fire detection and alarm systems.
Grundon’s fire-fighting equipment solution
A new Bulk Recycling Centre in Banbury, owned and operated by Grundon Waste Management, is a good example of best-practice in fire safety planning, as well as illustrating how collaborative working can meet the requirements of the Environment Agency Fire Prevention Plan.
East Coast Fire & Security was employed to design, supply, install and commission an addressable fire alarm system that integrates with the new fire suppression system. It protects all areas of the Banbury site, giving immediate visibility of where the alarm has been raised, with the entire site alerted and the suppression system automatically activated when required.
Kentec’s Syncro AS single-loop fire panels were specified and installed 165 metres apart. They were linked together using a network card and two 2 –core 1.5mm fire resistant FP cables, providing complete control from either panel on all devices, even on opposite sides of the plant.
Syncro AS is a multi-protocol panel, providing maximum choice in system design. It can be used to network up to 64 panels, meaning a system can be expanded as and when required. The Sigma XT fire suppression system comes with three detection zones as standard, meaning extinguishant release can be configured to activate from any combination of detection zone inputs.
East Coast Fire & Security linked the Fire alarm system to an alarm receiving centre (ARC), for 24/7 monitoring of the entire site – crucial for out of hours periods. It also installed the status unit cables, containment, along with addressable Sounder / Beacons, IP-rated manual call points (MCPs) in the main recycling unit, detection and MCPs in both plant rooms and devices in the Weighbridge including the installation of the status units.
Simon Hubbard, Director of East Coast Fire & Security, chose Kentec’s systems because of their reliability, excellent networking capability and powerful cause and effects software, which reduces false alarms.
The result is a system that provides the highest level of fire protection, with the project providing a blueprint for how installers and manufacturers can work together for the benefit of clients’ fire safety.
What the future looks like
Regardless of sector, and looking beyond the waste management industry, integration is the key to fire safety in the future.
All fire, security, Public Address (PA), Voice Evacuation and lighting systems will need to be able to ‘talk’ to one another, and so too the technologies of the future. Thermal imaging equipment, for example, is becoming more commercially viable and it is now possible to integrate this equipment with a fire control panel. The ‘self-heating’ ignition risks within recycling centres mean this technology will be particularly prevalent in this sector.
Fire system engineering is a complex and technical area, demonstrated by the fact the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) document on sprinkler system design alone is 400 pages long. Waste management sites differ from warehouses, offices or shops in the fact that wastes are not standard, stored products. Further, the larger and more complex a site or plant is, the more complex and comprehensive the fire strategy, planning and fire safety systems required. Regulations and insurance requirements are ever-changing and meeting these requirements will more often than not require specialist fire safety consultation. The importance of integration increases the complexity of the fire engineering requirements.
It is Kentec’s responsibility to work with other manufacturers to ensure its products are compatible with all new technologies to assist in the future development of integrated fire safety systems.
*Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH), ‘Reducing Fire Risk at Waste Management Sites’, April 2017.