The fire at the Sungei Kadut warehouse (65 Sungei Kadut Loop) last November was a stark reminder to members of the timber/furniture trade that fire can break out whenever, wherever. This is not the first of such occurrence, and will probably not be the last. In 2014, another blaze at 14 Sungei Kadut Street 6 sadly took the life of an individual.
As timber and wooden furniture are highly flammable products, it is of utmost importance that the level of fire safety awareness be elevated amongst the trade. Here are some tips that business owners can work on to mitigate the risk of fire and prevent tragedy from repeating.
1.Ensure extinguishers are in working order
Extinguishers are extremely effective against small fires. However, when not properly maintained, extinguishers will fail to function properly in the event of a fire. Extinguishers can be damaged when exposed to the elements (Moisture can cause caking of the powder in the cylinder) or when handled carelessly (dropped on the floor, which results in the propellant gas leaking out, or valve damaged). It is good practice to conduct monthly checks to ensure that the pressure gauge is in the green zone. Also, make sure that the safety pin and seal are intact. Notify your fire contractor immediately if the reading is not in the green zone. Do note that it is mandatory for fire extinguishers to be serviced annually by a PSB certified fire contractor.
2 .Ensure that hose reels are functioning
Hosereels provide delivery of continuous water supply to suppress fire. However, hosereels are often used for non-firefighting purposes (washing cars, watering plants etc). Although many owners feel this is acceptable, using the hosereel often damage it in the long run. This is because industrial water supply sometimes contains sand/dirt that will eventually clog up the nozzle of the hosereel under high usage condition. In the event of a fire, a blocked/choked hosereel will not function. The sand/dirt might also cut the rubber lining, resulting in damaged hose and leakage (increase water bills). Do inform your staff to limit unnecessary usage of hosereels. Contact your fire contractor to check the hosereels at least once a year (Bi-annual checking is the common industrial practice nowadays).
3. Ensure hydrants are not damaged or choked.
Hydrants are used by our firefighting heroes to suppress fire. However, hydrants are often damaged by lorries and trucks. One way to prevent this is to erect a safety barrier around the hydrant or to relocate the hydrant to a better location. Another common occurrence that occurs in the timber trade is the clogging of the hydrant pit-covers by sawdust. If this is not cleared, fire fighters will have trouble opening the hydrant valve in a fire scenario which will delay rescue efforts. Always engage your fire contractor to perform a yearly pressure and flow test to ensure that your hydrant is functioning properly.
4. Check to see fire alarm panel is in working condition
Fire alarms panels are connected with manual call points or detectors which will sound the alarm bells in a fire scenario. However, most factories are only equipped with manual call point (without detectors, sounding the alarm can only be performed manually). It is highly recommended that factories be upgraded to include smoke detectors in the fire alarm system layout. Also, do periodically check the main alarm panel to see if any fault light is present. Fault light indicates an error in the system (low battery, damaged wiring etc). The fire alarm panel may not function properly if the fault is not resolved. Worse yet, some alarm panels might not even be switched on. Do contact your fire contractor to service your panels regularly. (common practice for servicing of panels for most industrial and commercial buildings are once a month).
5. Send staff for basic firefighting training
It might come as a surprise that most people do not know how to use a fire extinguisher properly. Even if they have gone through training previously, such knowledge will be forgotten over time or in a high pressure setting like a fire outbreak. Do get your fire contractor to organize fire safety training at least once a year so that all your staff can learn how to use a fire extinguisher properly. Also, work with your in-house fire safety manager (if available) to conduct fire drills so that everyone knows what to do and where to go to in the event of a fire.
Hopefully, the tips above will be useful to the business owners of the timber and furniture trade. For further enquiries, feel free to call us @ 63665855 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe and be ready against fire, whenever, wherever!
FIREADY is made up of individuals with many years of experience in the fire and safety industry. We aim to generate greater awareness on fire safety to the general public as well as protect our local SMEs, the cornerstone of our Singapore economy.