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9 steps to help you prevent warehouse fires

A 2009 fire in an Ontario ice cream manufacturer's facility set off alarm bells for warehouses and distribution centres after a spark from a welding torch ignited insulation. All 150 employees escaped but the building and product inventory were destroyed and nearby homes evacuated. At considerable cost, the company had to rebuild their business from the ground up.

"Your best insurance against a similar occurrence is a comprehensive fire safety plan," says WSPS Account Manager Jennifer MacFarlane.

Here are nine steps to help you prevent fires:

  1. Understand and apply the laws applying to fire protection in warehouses. Fire safety is governed by a number of laws and codes, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Building Code, the Canadian Electrical Code, WHMIS, and the Ontario Fire Code. The fire code covers such topics as sprinkler systems, aisle width, storage heights, distances between racks, type of fire extinguishers, and more.
  2. Carry out a risk assessment. What are your fire hazards (ex. hot work, electrical, charging stations, etc.)? Who is at risk and how can you control these risks? Hot work requires a permit and hazard analysis before work can proceed. Because the configuration of your racking systems and aisles change frequently, risk assessments should be ongoing. 
  3. Know what products you are carrying, and advise your local fire department. If you’re storing chemicals, provide the fire department with safety data sheets.
  4. Ensure products are stored properly. Different chemicals require different storage units.
  5. Develop and post a fire safety plan. Include an evacuation plan, location of exits and fire extinguishers, frequency of fire drills, and emergency contacts.
  6. Train all employees on your safety procedures, including when and how to use fire extinguishers. Warehouses employ a lot of temp workers, so make sure they understand the guidelines.
  7. Practice good housekeeping. Keep aisles and exits clear, and have a designated area for storing unused pallets and crates.
  8. Don't use electrical heaters or temporary cords, and be sure to maintain your electrical system.
  9. Regularly check that sprinkler systems and hydrants are working properly.

How we can help

WSPS Consultants can help you carry out a risk assessment and develop a comprehensive fire safety plan.

Also check out our extensive collection of fire prevention resources. Among the offerings: free downloads on fire extinguishers, fire protection, and flammable liquid storage, an e-course (Fire Safety: the Basics), and more.