WISH releases draft Fire Control Guidance

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service tackle a fire at Worksop Recycling Centre. Image courtesy of @Nottsfire

The WISH (Waste Industry Safety and Health) Forum has released draft Fire Control Guidance for consultation. The guidance aims to reduce the risk of fire at waste management facilities.

Prepared by a cross-industry group including input from the Environment Agency (EA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Health and Safety Laboratories, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and other bodies, the draft document has been produced to supersede the existing EA Technical Guidance Note (TGN) 07.

The ‘main insurance companies’ involved in waste management were also consulted for their views on some aspects of the document.

The guidance is directed specifically toward fire management on solid waste management sites where more than 50 cubic metres of solid combustible waste material is stored or handled at any one time.

It also specifies that guidance particularly applies to sites that may not have either:

  • a relevant sector specific fire code of practice recognised by the appropriate environmental regulator or other appropriate regulatory body; or
  • a site accident/emergency plan, which has been agreed with the local fire and rescue service (FRS)

The document is split into three sections covering general issues such as scope and fire risks, specific fire control guidance for sites in four areas (the whole site, reception, treatment and storage) and an appendix mainly concerned with maximum allowed stack sizes and minimum separation distances between open stacks for wastes stored externally.

‘Urgent need to issue guidance’

In a covering letter to the document, the cross-industry fire work group highlighted the ‘urgent need to issue guidance’ as the waste management industry ‘keeps suffering serious fires’.

The letter also expressed awareness that many different technical standards and other documents relating to fires in the waste industry are currently available, claiming, however, that this document accumulates the ‘best of available information from different sources to arrive at the figures in this draft guidance’.

In addition, the cover letter specifies that ‘the days of extremely large piles of stored waste with little or no separation between stacks, known as “mega-stacks”, must come to an end’ as fires in such conditions ‘pose the greatest risk to the environment, human health and business’.

‘Umbrella’ guidance

The document is intended to be treated as ‘umbrella’ guidance, offering general fire prevention and mitigation advice for the waste management industry.

Indeed, it is made clear that the document is not intended to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for advice on reducing fire risk and must be considered as a framework into which any future guidelines will be placed.

WISH has released the document for consultation and invited comments on all of the guidelines by email, with a deadline of 25 July.

It further states that as waste-specific testing data becomes available over time it ‘will revise this guidance to keep it up-to-date and to ensure that it remains consistent with the best information available’.

Tackling waste fires

Waste site fires are commonplace, with figures released last year showing that between 2001 and 2012, the average rate of fires at waste and recycling works came in at just under one per day.

To reduce the outbreak of fire at waste storage sites, the EA has previously released guidance that identifies a range of measures that operators of waste storage sites should implement to minimise the risk of fire. However, Mark Tansey of fire detection supplier FireVu recently told Resource that the guidance neglects to mention fire detection and prevention technology, which he says is an ‘essential step’ to stalling and extinguishing fires.

The draft guidance currently undergoing consultation seeks to supersede the current EA guidance. 

Read the full draft fire control guidance.