Basics of fire protection

Basics of Fire Protection

When you work with highly flammable or otherwise hazardous materials, you have a duty to ensure that they are stored in safe conditions and in compliance with the law. Legislators demand that the strictest fire protection regulations be adhered to to protect people and the environment. Therefore, you should inform yourself at an early stage about the various requirements and define measures that best prevent fire risks. 

In our practical guide we identify the fire safety aspects that should be considered in your risk assessment and which national and international regulations and standards play a role.


Fire protection: definition and important terms

Fire protection refers to the measures put in place to (a) prevent the emergence and spread of a fire (b) to ensure the safety of people and animals and (c) the measures put in place to ensure effective fire extinguishing in the event of a fire.

When planning a hazardous goods warehouse, preventive fire protection must be taken into account, in order to minimise possible fire hazards due to the stored substances in advance or to prepare measures for effective fire fighting in the event of an emergency. It is divided into structural, technical and organisational measures:


Structural Fire Protection 

  • Division into fire sections*
  • Requirements for building materials and components 
  • Fire resistance 
  • Safety distances
Technical Fire Protection

  • Fire alarm systems
  • Automatic extinguishing systems
  • Fire water supply
  • Smoke and heat exhaust systems 
Organisational Fire Protection 

  • Alarm Plans
  • Fire Safety Regulations
  • Escape and rescue plans
  • Identification
  • Drills 


In order to define and implement suitable fire protection measures, you should first of all know the dangers that can be expected in your company. Is there any risk of fire due to dangerous substances in the company? If such a fire hazard exists, how high is this? All this should be determined in your risk assessment.

Identifying a Fire Hazard

For all operations in which activities with flammable or oxidising hazardous substances are carried out, The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) specifies the requirements for a risk assessment, especially with regard to identifying fire hazards and the measures needed to eliminate risks from hazardous materials.

1  Collect information - the risk assessment

Before work is carried out, employers must assess the fire risks that may be caused by dangerous substances. This should be carried out as part of a risk assessment and by a competent, trained professional.

All relevant factors for the rise, spread and impact of a fire must be considered. These include the dangers for employees from smoke, other (toxic) fire products, heat and the failure of components. For a good overview, here are some handy questions to ask yourself:

To the hazardous substances present during operation
Are activities carried out with combustible or oxidising hazardous substances or can flammable or oxidising hazardous substances be generated or released during activities?
Is there a possibility of a substitution of hazardous substances or a process change in operations which would help minimise the risk?
At which locations, in which quantities and in which state are flammable or oxidising hazardous substances present?
Which dangerous properties do the hazardous substances have, which fire hazard results from this, and which follow-on products are to be expected?

Our tip: Consult the safety data sheets. These contain important safety-related information from the supplier regarding the respective substances. In the assessment, it should be taken into account that deviating test parameters may be the basis, depending on the test method.

Which physicochemical properties and safety parameters do the flammable substances have?

E.g. For solids / dusts: minimum ignition temperature of a layer of dust (smouldering temperature), smouldering point, auto-ignition temperature, burning point, ignition temperature
E.g. For liquids: flash point, focus, ignition temperature
E.g. For gases: flammability, explosive limits, minimum ignition energy, combustion rate


To the operational and local conditions 
What is the influence of working equipment or systems and their operation?
How do structural, local and operational conditions as well as working conditions, organisation and environment affect the fire risk?
Are there possible interactions?
How is the fire hazard to be assessed taking into account various operating conditions?

These include: normal operation, commissioning and decommissioning of equipment or work equipment, breakdowns, foreseeable improper operation.
Are there operating conditions that require separate measures?

These include: maintenance (maintenance, inspection, repair, improvement) and the commissioning and decommissioning of safety equipment.
Which persons are to be expected locally and in which number?
Are special working conditions (for example long or confusing escape routes or scaffolding work) to be taken into account?
How fast can the fire department be on site and what equipment does it have?
How should the physical boundary conditions be assessed?

E.g. Temperature, air flows, humidity, room volume, room area, room height


Possible sources of ignition
Are works carried out with an open flame or high temperatures?
Can ignition sources be generated by improper operating conditions?
Are there any effects from electrical, mechanical, chemical and / or thermal energy?
How effective are the ignition sources?


On licensing and other requirements
Which building regulations requirements are required with regard to preventive and defensive fire protection?
Are requirements already known from previous reports?

E.g. from fire safety reports, fire protection concepts according to the building permit, risk assessments, safety reports according to accident regulations, etc.


2  Determine protective measures

According to DSEAR employers must put control measures in place to eliminate risks from dangerous substances, or reduce them as far as is reasonably practicable.

The best solution is to eliminate the risk completely by replacing the dangerous substance with another substance, or using a different work process, but in practice this may be difficult to achieve. Where it is not possible to eliminate the risk completely employers must take measures to control risks and reduce the severity of the effects of any harmful event. 

When the risk cannot be eliminated, DSEAR requires control measures to be applied in the following priority order:

  • Reduce the quantity of dangerous substances to a minimum
  • Avoid or minimise releases of dangerous substances
  • Control releases of dangerous substances at source
  • Prevent the formation of a dangerous atmosphere
  • Collect, contain and remove any releases to a safe place (e.g. through ventilation)
  • Avoid ignition sources
  • Avoid adverse conditions that could lead to danger 
  • Keep incompatible substances apart

 

In addition to control measures DSEAR requires employers to put mitigation measures in place. These measures should be consistent with the risk assessment and appropriate to the nature of the operation and include: 

  • Reducing the number of employees exposed to the risk
  • Providing plant that is explosion resistant
  • Providing plant that is corrosion resistant
  • Providing explosion suppression or explosion relief equipment
  • Taking measures to control or minimise the spread of fires or explosions
  • Providing suitable PPE

3  Devise emergency plans & procedures

Arrangements must be made to deal with emergencies. These plans and procedures should cover safety drills and suitable communication and warning systems and should be in proportion to the risks. If an emergency occurs, workers tasked with carrying out repairs or other necessary work must be provided with the appropriate equipment to allow them to carry out this work safely.

The information in the emergency plans and procedures must be made available to the emergency services to allow them to develop their own plans if necessary.

Employees must also be provided with the relevant information, instructions and training. This includes: 

  • The dangerous substances present in the workplace and the risks they present including access to any relevant safety data sheets and information on any other legislation that applies
  • The findings of the risk assessment and the control measures put in place
  • Emergency procedures

 

 


ATTENTION: It is essential to comply with the legal requirements for explosion protection!

DSEAR also places duties on employers to eliminate or control the risks from explosive atmospheres in the workplace. 

Employers must classify areas where hazardous explosive atmospheres may occur into zones. The classification given to a particular zone, and its size and location, depends on the likelihood of an explosive atmosphere occurring and its persistence if it does. Depending on the zone, various safety precautions must be taken to prevent explosion, e.g. the use of ex-protected equipment or components.


European Standards and Classifications

In the course of the progressive harmonisation of standards in Europe, a largely uniform classification system for fire protection was also introduced and gradually established in the national legislation of some EU states. This is based on the European standards EN 13501-1 and -2. This deals with the classification of the fire behaviour of construction products and the duration of the fire resistance. Essential requirements are the carrying capacity of the construction as well as the spread of fire. These are deemed to be met by the demonstration of the fire resistance of load-bearing and / or space-enclosing components over a certain period of time. This is proved by fire tests. After passing the fire resistance test, the overall system obtains a classification indicated as REI tt, e.g. REI 120: 

 

Résistance = Load Capacity

The ability to resist fire exposure under specified mechanical conditions without loss of stability. 

Étanchéité = Room Closure
The ability of a component with space separating function to withstand a fire passage to the unburned side. 

Isolation = Insulation
The ability to prevent heat transfer in the event of one-sided fire stress to the extent that no surfaces or materials are ignited on the unflamed side (ΔT <180K)

120 = Duration in Minutes
The time during which all criteria  (R, E and I) are met.

The European system is structured in great detail, with possible classification times of 15, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, 180 and 240 minutes - however fire protection stores typically use the REI 30, 60, 90 and 120 classifications. Similarly, fire doors are classified as EI 30 to EI 120.

REI 30 / EI 30
Fire resistant

REI 60 / EI 60
Highly fire resistant

REI 90 / EI 90
Fire resistant 

REI 120 / EI 120
High fire resistant

Regardless of the Europe-wide uniform classification system, national regulations and legislation sometimes require different classification times. For example, while in Germany, Austria and Switzerland a classification according to F 90 / REI 90 is state of the art, REI 120 is relevant in other European countries. These are currently France, Spain, Italy and Poland.

For our DENIOS fire protection bearings, we have the required classification times checked by independent institutions and confirmed by official approvals or official classification reports.

Important: In addition to fire resistance, different requirements and local provisions must be observed internationally too for other areas such as water protection. For example, different specifications for the sump volume of the spill pallet may be required. We are happy to help.


You're on the safe side with DENIOS fire protection storage

Anyone who stores hazardous substances has to consider the possible fire hazards and the numerous regulations that surround it. Building regulations must be met and specific requirements for the storage of hazardous materials also play a role. But it is also very important to ensure the safety of people and the environment, and with DENIOS as your partner you are in safe hands.

Our fire proof room systems are designed to hold back fire for up to 120 minutes, giving you time to take any necessary further precautions to ensure the safety of your staff and facilities. We manufacture products specifically tailored to your needs, which are internationally tested and certified as a complete system offering reliable fire protection both inside and out. And because fire protection is a holistic topic, our expert team ensures all-round service in the usual DENIOS quality.


The technical information on this page has been prepared carefully and to the best of our knowledge and belief. Nevertheless, DENIOS can not assume any warranty or liability whatsoever, whether contractual, tortious or in any other way, for its timeliness, completeness and accuracy neither vis-à-vis the recipient of this magazine nor third parties. The use of information and content for your own or other purposes is at your own risk. In any case, observe the local and current legislation.