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How To Manage the Risk of Fire in the Manufacturing Sector

Post written by Bart Rahe, CPCU- Business Sector Manager

WFI-TCL-Fire Manufacturing businesses have inherent hazards due to the use of flammable and combustible materials used during the manufacturing process, or as a result of the nature of the finished goods. The potential for fire, due to the use of heat sources and the presence of flammables, requires that manufacturers be proactive in implementing measures to prevent and mitigate loss.

Manufacturing is the third largest sector in Westfield’s commercial portfolio and it continues to grow. Over the years, we’ve unfortunately seen fire emerge as the leading peril impacting loss severity for this industry segment. A review of large losses revealed key factors contributing to a fire. These include ignition of combustible material by an electrical source or ignition from application of combustible liquids, such as spray painting. This also mirrors the overall industry experience.

Manufacturers will find that even with insurance to cover the cost to repair and replace property and income, the disruption and turmoil brought on by large fire losses can be devastating to a business. It’s crucial for businesses to utilize various risk management options to alleviate the potential impact of a fire.

15 Ways To Mitigate Risk

Westfield’s Risk Control team is collectively very knowledgeable on the property exposures of the manufacturing sector, and can identify and recommend numerous approaches to assist our manufacturing customers in their efforts to manage the exposure to fire. Below are 15 ways to mitigate your risk.

  1. Know the materials used in your manufacturing process. Obtain Safety Data Sheets and understand use and storage requirements. Make employees aware of safety considerations.
  2. Utilize a UL Listed or Factory Mutual Approved spray booth for painting and varnishing.
  3. Be sure that dust, woodworking residue, or polyethylene filler are accumulated in a properly installed and maintained collection system. Maintain areas and equipment.
  4. Do not allow accumulation of debris. Remove waste from the premises daily.
  5. Be sure that all employees are familiar with a fire prevention and safety plan.
  6. Require strict adherence to “No Smoking” rules.
  7. Inspect all electrical equipment to identify worn or damaged wiring that could cause sparking.
  8. Keep only minimal amounts of flammable material outside of specially designed storage rooms that have required ventilation.
  9. Install the proper type of fire extinguishers on your premises. Have them inspected regularly. Train employees on their proper use.
  10. Mark appropriate aisle spacing and keep aisles clear.
  11. Compartmentalize facilities where possible to prevent or slow the spread of fire. Pay special attention to products that are highly susceptible to smoke and fire damage (i.e. food).
  12. Safely store both empty and full gas tanks used for welding, cutting equipment or fork lift vehicles. Tanks should be stored in a low traffic area, preferably outside, and chained to avoid tipping.
  13. Maintain the building’s sprinkler system, or if a tenant, require that the building owner comply with all requirements. Be sure that the system is operational.
  14. Restrict the use of welding or cutting equipment closer than 35 feet from combustibles.
  15. Store cardboard boxes and finished goods away from heat sources. Use pallets or shelving for storage.

Risk control can help with the details on how to best implement these recommendations. The work required to adhere to these
recommendations should not be considered a burden for business owners, managers, and workers who are likely to have busy schedules already. Adherence is a positive, proactive way to prevent injury, maintain property, safeguard jobs and ultimately save the insured a lot of headaches and angst.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons, William Warby

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