Introduction the safety of the occupants (primarily staff) in

Introduction

This case study focuses on the T.K. Maxx Processing Centre (PC), located at Green Lane, Walsall. The building will be used to outline how its design and construction is controlled for fire safety purposes and illustrates the ways in which the safety of the occupants (primarily staff) in warehouses similar to T.K. Maxx PC is managed, audited and enforcement.

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Background and Warehouse Construction

        The building (Image 1), which was completed in 2004, is a 274,473 sqft warehouse of steel frame construction with sandwich panels.

        The building has 3 mezzanine floors.

        Typical occupancy levels range from 600-800 staff per shift. However, during shift changes, the maximum number of occupants in the building can range from 2500-3000. Due to the high volume of occupants, it’s essential the employers ensure adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.

 

Risks to Occupants

T.K. Maxx PC is a dynamic working environment with a variety of fire risks. See Appendix 1 for the site-specific fire risk assessment (SSFRA). The main risks to occupants are summarised below:

        Fire (Ignition sources)

        Faulty or misused electrical equipment

        Lack of control of COSHH substances

        Build-up of Combustible Materials

        Poorly maintained detection/alarm/fire suppression systems

        Inability To Escape e.g. obstructed exits

        Uncontrolled Fire Spread

        Toxic fumes/smoke

        Unknown contents of Lorries for unpacking (see image 2 below).

 

The SSFRA allocates these risks a risk rating 1 (without control measures) of 25 (high risk) with the likeliness of a potential loss of life and injury to person being almost certain. However, the risk rating 2 (with control measures) is reduced to 10 (medium risk) with the likeliness of a loss of life and injury to person being unlikely. These control measures are detailed later in this case study. The risks to occupants are significantly reduced through the auditing and enforcement process and legislation which are discussed below.

Auditing and Enforcement process and Relevant Legislation

Under the Fire Precautions Act 1975, Warehouses (such as the one used in this case study) do not require a fire certificate. However, the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 2003 requires ‘responsible persons’ to carry out a fire risk assessment to ensure their place of work is safe in regards to fire risks.

Communities and Local Government has produced guidance for ‘responsible persons’ in the types of premises covered by the Order. The guide which applies to this building is ‘Factories and warehouses’ (Communities and Local Government, 2005).

This guide is for all employers, managers, occupiers and owners of factories and Warehouses. The guide tells the ‘responsible persons’ how to be compliant with fire safety law, how to conduct fire risk assessments and identifies general fire precautions which need to be in place. It is intended for premises where the main use of the building or part of the building is a factory or warehouse managed by a single enterprise. More complex premises will need to be assessed by a person who has comprehensive training or experience in fire risk assessment (Cabinet Office, 2006).

 

Additional information is contained within The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It covers general fire precautions and other fire safety duties required to protect ‘relevant persons’ in case of fire in and around most ‘premises’. The Order requires fire precautions to be put in place ‘where necessary’ and to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances of the case. Responsibility for complying with the Order rests with the ‘responsible person’. In a workplace, this is the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, e.g. the occupier or owner.

The responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the safety of all ‘relevant persons’ with an emphasis on those at special risk e.g. disabled, special needs and young persons. It must include consideration of any dangerous substance liable to be on the premises. The fire risk assessment helps the responsible person to identify risks which can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions they need to take (Cabinet Office, 2006).

At T.K. Maxx PC, Safety Manager Andy Eaton is the site ‘responsible person’. He conducts a monthly health and safety audit which includes a Fire Risk Assessment. Following the audit, he holds a health and safety committee meeting (20 members). The committee discusses any outstanding safety concerns which need reviewing. Appendix 1. contains the site-specific Fire Risk Assessment. It includes the hazards and control measures used to mitigate those risks.

If Andy finds there are any compliance issues with departments, he will complete an improvement action plan which must be actioned in 7-14 days depending on the severity of the risk. E.g. a blocked fire door must be actioned immediately see Appendix 2.

Yearly the health and safety auditor from T.K. Maxx’s insurance company audits the site’s records. They ensure the site is complying with the terms of their insurance e.g. health and safety and fire safety. If they are found not to be compliant, the site will be issued an improvement notice and will lose their preferential insurance.

Enforcement

West Midlands Fire Service conducts ‘spot checks’ to ensure the site complies with fire safety guidelines. The last ‘spot check’ was conducted on the 26th June 2017. West Midlands Fire service (Bloxwich Station) attended site, checking for compliance and any significant changes. Andy Noted:  “Fantastic feedback and positive praise for how the site looked and was managed regarding fire safety” (Andy Eaton’s Fire Risk Assessment, 2017).

Who enforces the Fire Safety Order?

West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service (WMFRS) enforce the Order at T.K. Maxx. They have the power to inspect the premises to check the site is complying with their duties under the Order. They will look for evidence that the site has carried out a suitable fire risk assessment and acted upon the significant findings of that assessment. If WMFRS are dissatisfied with the outcome of the site’s fire risk assessment or the actions taken, they may issue an enforcement notice requiring the site to make certain improvements or, in extreme cases, a prohibition notice that restricts the use of all or part of the premises until improvements are made.  Failure to comply with any duty imposed by the Order or any notice issued by the enforcing authority is an offence (Cabinet Office, 2006). 

 

How a new building design and construction would be overseen

In its favour, T.K. Maxx PC has benefited from the fact that it was constructed as recently as 2004 and has not been significantly altered since. During the construction phase of the site, the legislation impacting upon its initial safety by design construction would include:

      BS 5588-11:1997 Fire Precautions in the design, construction and use of buildings. Part 11: Code of Practice for shops, offices, industrial, storage and other similar buildings (Issuu, 2004).  

      Article 45 – Duty to consult enforcing authority before passing plans (Communities and Local Government, 2005). 

 

Section 178. The article provides for consultation between local authorities and enforcing authorities for the Order in respect of plans deposited with local authorities in accordance with Building Regulations.  The provision is necessary to ensure appropriate consultation between those authorities involved at the construction stage and later stages of the life of a building. Regulation 13 of the Building (Approved Inspectors etc) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/2532) makes similar provision for consultation by Approved Inspectors.

 

Section 179. The consultation should clearly identify those fire precautions they believe are necessary and the rationale for those fire precautions. This consultation process should ensure there will be no significant increase in the number of occasions when additional fire precautions will be required after Building Regulation approval has been given.

 

Guidance to enforcing authorities on the consultation process is provided within the Procedural Guidance document issued by Communities and Local Government. Where enforcing authorities are consulted and are of the view that likely changes to the premises when they come into use may require additional fire precautions (e.g. introduction of racking into a speculatively built warehouse) it will be helpful if details can be passed back as part of the consultation process.

 

The premises operators are incentivised by their insurance company which offers significant benefits if the company ensures that not only is it compliant with current fire safety legislation but that it goes beyond what is required E.g. getting the most advanced systems to protect the occupants and stock e.g.

      Maintaining 2 significant water tanks on site which enable the fire service to tackle most fires effectively without detracting from internal safety measures by drawing water away from sprinkler systems which could be saving lives inside.

      Effective sprinkler fire suppression systems in place:  automatic wet pipe sprinkler system inc. fire hydrant ring main & drench system operated by 2x John Deer pumps set with electric jockey pump

      Cirrus Pro Aspirating Fire Detectors

      HFC 227ea Fire Extinguishing System fitted in the Server room that is located in the main office.

      24-hour CCTV coverage including perimeter fence line and 24-hour on-site security, situated in the gatehouse.

      Pro-tech 60400 auditable fire alarm system installed on site, serviced and maintained by pro-tech fire prevention plc, this includes smoke detections system, heat detectors and smoke beam detectors

      NCP mezzanine floor insulation to allow Fire sprinkler coverage to be fitted underneath to cover NCP lanes.  

      Another notable safety feature which has significantly reduced the onsite insurance cost includes a concrete sub-wall to prevent ram raiders. It covers the whole of the ground floor and is fitted with vibration sensors warning of attempted ram-raiding. Whilst this is a good stock protection feature it also increases the safety of the occupants and increases the stability of the building.

      All points taken from (Andy Eaton’s Fire Risk Assessment, 2017).

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