Guidance to prevent fires at sites storing combustible materials has been issued to the waste management industry.
The Environment Agency’s (EA) Technical Guidance Note (TGN) contains specific guidelines for storage, fire prevention and fire suppression and two key areas are identified:
- reduced storage times
- preparation to contain and reduce the effect of fires
Operators will not be able to store several materials for longer than six months due to the increased risk of self-combustion. These include green material, wood, general waste including refuse derived fuel and fines, and smaller size and graded materials.
In order to contain and mitigate fires, stacks must be appropriately sized and separated. The TGN details exact measures for stack distances as well as proximity to flammable materials and roadways.
EA officers will be using the TGN when inspecting waste sites.
However, the guidance applies only to sites storing more than 50 cubic metres of solid combustible material at any one time which do not have a fire code of practice or an accident plan agreed with local fire and rescue services.
The agency is in the process of rolling out the new guidance to these fire-fighting services.
The EA wrote to 7,800 sites, asking them to review their accident plans ahead of the release of the TGN.
Steve Lee, chief executive officer of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) welcomed the guidance note and said: “In the last year, we have seen a number of major incidents that have focused attention on the fire risks associated with waste management operations, particularly the storage of waste, and the environmental, health and economic impact of these incidents.
“We are now seeing concerted action by a range of stakeholders and industry bodies to address this issue and this guidance note from the EA is an important and welcome step.“
CIWM is part of a working group – led by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association and including the Environmental Services Association (ESA), HSE and the WISH Forum – which will be developing further guidance in the coming months.
Other trade associations such as the Wood Recyclers Association and Tyre Recovery Association are producing sector specific guidance. When these are available they will replace the TGN.
Individual waste fires this year have cost society up to £6m, according to the EA.