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Fire officers to hold fire prevention seminar for waste industry

The Chief Fire Officer’s Association (CFOA) is to hold a special seminar on preventing fires in the waste industry.

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Speaking exclusively to MRW at the RWM Exhibition 2013, Peter Butt, executive director of the Wood Recyclers’ Association, said the event in November was likely to include regulators such as Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Fire Service, the Environment Agency (EA) and its equivalents from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The seminar is also likely to include recyclers of metal, plastics, paper and tyres.

It follows several major fires in the waste industry this summer, including a large blaze in July caused by a stray Chinese lantern at a Jayplas’ Smethwick plastics facility (pictured above).

Butt said that the Government is concerned about the large number of such fires.

The WRA wants specific fire safety guidance for the waste wood industry approved during the seminar, because stockpiles of different wood materials are susceptible to different types of fire.

Butt said that fires were a concern for the wood waste industry, because it deals with flammable material. However, non-chipped wood arriving at a recycling yard, such as large planks and bits of furniture, were extremely unlikely to catch fire unless targeted by arsonists.

Once the wood becomes chipped it becomes more susceptible to self-combustion, he said. The higher the number of ‘fines’, which are woodchips less than 10mm, the higher the chance of self-combustion, but they tend only to smoulder.

Butt said: “That is a concern. It still has to be put out, but it’s not going to blaze.”

Consequently, on behalf of the WRA, Butt has written a comprehensive guide, including information on how to assess waste wood stockpiles. It takes into account the state of the wood, fire prevention measures and fire fighting facilities on site.

Butt said that, on the whole, the more wood recyclers invested in fire prevention the bigger their stockpiles could be.

He said regulators were in favour of his guidance and it was close to being published, although the multiple fires breaking out this summer had delayed the process.

Butt: “It’s an opportunity for us to get on the front foot. This document, once it gets published, and I’m sure it will, will serve the whole United Kingdom.”

Background to Fire Guidance

Peter Butt said the process of fire guidance started in an “inauspicious” way for the waste wood industry.

Two years ago the EA floated fire storage guidance (PPG-29) that was a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This was supposed to work for all the materials in storage including metals, plastics and woods.

Butt said: “It was completely unworkable. They were imposing maximum stacks on us which would make it inoperable.”

It was problematic because the same maximums were applied for plastics and wood even though wood has a much lower value per volume.

The WRA went back to the EA to raise this concern. The EA then asked the WRA to write its own industry specific fire guidance for waste wood storage.

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