How Industrial Companies Can Avoid a Hazardous Waste Fire

jason-dent-iBJ15twYiYw-unsplashFires started from hazardous waste aren’t always just difficult to extinguish, they can also be extremely dangerous. On an industrial scale, toxic fires can lead to massive explosions that cause property damage and even mass casualties.

What can industrial companies do to avoid hazardous waste fires, both directly and indirectly? Here are a few best practices to minimize the risk of toxic fires in industries where preparation is synonymous with safety.

Learning from Past Events

The biggest catalyst for fire prevention standardization within U.S. industry has come from past hazardous fire events. A largescale chemical fire in Apex, North Carolina, in 2008, for example, spurred the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to call for a nationalized fire code for hazardous waste facilities. In this event, chemical oxygen generators were unknowingly stacked on top of solid chlorine chemicals; the chemical facility where the fire raged had only hand-held fire extinguishers, allowing the fire to quickly burn out of control. The EPA has since put together an extremely comprehensive set of resources for the handling of commercial hazardous waste and continues to update it regularly.

The Process of Preventing Fires

Fire prevention is all about preparation. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs) must take the process of fire prevention as seriously as they do the regulatory requirements for disposing of hazardous waste. Here are some of the  NFPA's recommendations to help industrial manufacturers can best avoid fires:

Following the RCRA:

All industrial hazardous waste is regulated by the EPA under the 1976 RCRA. Within this system, facilities must meet general standards as well as develop a waste analysis plan (WAP) to ensure that the waste is treated, handled, and disposed of in a safe manner. They also must continuously monitor to ensure waste isn’t leeching into soil, waterways, or airways, increasing the risk of accidental ignition.

Proper Labeling and Storage of Hazardous Materials:

One of the best – and simplest – methods of incident prevention at TSDFs is proper labeling and storage. Waste storage containers should be considered holistically when determining how to stack, nest, and otherwise arrange waste within a facility; all waste should be easily identifiable through clear, dated labels.

Thorough Employee Training:

Many waste fire situations are caused by human error. Proper training protocols and bi-annual training sessions held specifically on the issue of fire prevention are critical for maintaining a safe, responsible environment.

Create a Fire Plan:

A comprehensive fire plan to be implemented in case of a fire emergency is critical for ensuring waste fires don’t burn out of control. Industrial facilities should consult with fire prevention experts on wet chemical extinguishing systems, industrial fire extinguishers, and widespread sprinkler systems, among other technologies.

Shield Engineering helps industrial facilities protect themselves against the threats of hazardous waste fires. From staff training to construction quality assurance, our services are designed to ensure operations maintain compliance, safety, and viability over the long term.

Complete the form below to contact Shield Engineering and learn more about how our Environmental Services group can help your organization reduce its risk of fire.

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