High fuel loads make sites such as petrochemical and gas plants, airports, marine ports, manufacturing facilities and oil refineries vulnerable to fire, which can have a devastating impact not just on the property but also on the people who work there.

If lightning strikes or accidents occur during refuelling or the unloading of cargo, the consequences can be catastrophic. At the same time, data centres with heavy power loads can shut down if defective equipment short circuits or overheats. These scenarios can result in crippling downtimes to the business if not total closure.

 Facilities without a reliable fire-suppression plan are at risk of:

  • property damage – the need to rebuild the infrastructure or replace high-cost equipment and items could threaten a business’s future.
  • business interruption – long periods of downtime can ruin revenue streams and cause customer dissatisfaction due to delayed shipments and missed deadlines.
  • environmental harm – air pollution, water contamination and soil and forestation damage as a result of fires can cause reputational damage or result in Environmental Protection Authority investigations.
  • insurance cost blowouts – after a significant fire, premium rises are common
  • legal implications – major industrial fires can cause legal disputes involving liability claims or regulatory fines.

Could a business survive a fire?

Here and overseas, the financial impact of fires on major industrial sites and businesses is no laughing matter.

In the United Kingdom, the mean average loss for a business per fire incident is $1.15 million. The UK Fire Protection Association (FPA) analysed 4782 major fires between January 2009 and December 2019 and put the losses per incident at £657,074, or about $1.15 million.

In the United States, the total estimated property damage is US$1.2 billion to industrial and manufacturing properties each year, according to their National Fire Protection Association.

In Australia, specific figures related to industrial fires are not available. However, it is telling that one disaster (e.g. the 2019-20 bushfires) caused the loss of 34 lives and an estimated $100 billion in overall economic damage. While these fires were not restricted to industrial sites, they devastated many manufacturing plants and businesses. So don’t be a statistic.

The value of fire-risk assessments

The National Construction Code of Australia has specific rules for high-hazard sites. At the same time, at-risk facilities are strongly encouraged to do fire-risk assessments voluntarily.

So, what is a fire risk assessment? It is a detailed review and evaluation of a building or a facility for fire risks, along with advice on how to either eliminate or mitigate the risk. This job is usually assigned to facility managers. They are the ones that should be alert to fire risks, as well as overseeing the inspection, servicing and maintenance of fire-prevention equipment.

However, the best practice we can recommend is to have it properly carried out by experienced fire-prevention specialists, as they are more knowledgeable and can provide a clear picture of current fire threats, which can form the basis of an action plan for your business. In addition, you will be able to get clarity on the performance of any existing fire-detection and fire-suppression systems and receive advice on desired fire-safety training and education for internal fire wardens.

The cost of this kind of test is very minimal compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions of dollars. You can save when you are equipped with the right knowledge and take the necessary precautions to prevent a fire from happening. Failure to prepare for fire risks may cost you your business if you end up with a serious fire event.

Expert advice is always the key to safety

Fire-safety decisions on industrial sites can mean the difference between life and death for your employees or the survival of your business.

You don’t know what you are risking every day that you delay having a fire-assessment test. Because the reality is fire is a threat that your business faces day in and day out. Seek the guidance of an experienced and professional fire-protection services provider in your area.

Talk to us to learn more about this test and start proactively planning for your future.

Also read – Never cut corners with servicing of fire-suppression systems

Could your business benefit from some expert fire protection advice?