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Fire assessment warning for recycling plants

A top fire safety expert has called on recycling plants to urgently re-assess their fire safety procedures after a summer blighted by waste industry blazes.

Brian Gregory (pictured below), director of Safety Management UK (SMUK), one of the UK’s largest fire risk assessment providers, said: “Organisations need to examine their machinery to ensure it is fit for purpose and to see that management practices are suitable and are being enforced with the required vigour.”

Brian Gregory

The call came ahead of news that fire fighters intend to strike on 1 November (6.30-11pm) and on 4 November (6-8am) over a pension dispute.

The Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency (EA), Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Natural Resources Wales, as the Competent Authority for the enforcement of the Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) legislation, have written to site operators to make them aware of the possible industrial action.

The letter highlights the implications of reduced emergency response cover. It promotes providing supplementary measures and arrangements to prevent potential major accidents and to minimise their consequences.

Commenting on a reduction in fire safety measures, Gregory said: “The use of ‘Emergency Responders’ within industry is a practice that has been dramatically reducing for years.

“There was a time when many hazardous sites would have their own in-house ‘trained’ firefighters, fire engine and equipment.”

In September the EA re-issued guidance urging waste site operators to step up fire prevention measures, following the summer fires including a large blaze in July caused by a stray Chinese lantern at a Jayplas’ Smethwick plastics facility.

The EA warned that failure to show that measures had been implemented in written procedures could affect operator’s annual subsistence fees.

Furthermore, poorly managed sites with huge stockpiles of material and no fire breaks, could see fees rise by up to 300%.

The Chief Fire Officer’s Association (CFOA) held a working group on waste sector fires this month and has drawn up draft aims and objectives.

Furthermore, the CFOA will also hold a special seminar ‘The Future Fires Forum’ on 27 November.

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