Chapter 21- Fire Safety Compliance

Fire safety is a major concern for buyers. The industrial history bears witness to frequent fire accidents in apparel factories killing hundreds of workers. Inadequate fire safety measures can lead to rejection of the factory by buyers. Therefore, the factory must make best efforts to ensure fire safety. Fire safety measures include prevention, fire fighting capability and safe evacuation of workers in the event of fire.

Textile, clothing, footwear, toy and leather goods have high risk because they easily catch fire. Once they start burning, the fire spreads faster producing large amounts of thick and toxic fume, smoke and gases. These factories also use solvents, chemicals, fuel and other flammable and combustible material on a large scale that increases the scope of accidental ignition.

Material such as fibers, fabric cuttings and fabric rolls lying in an open or loose form, accumulations of fluff and cotton dust, and oil soaked fibers and fabric increase the risk of fire. High piles of fabric and goods also increase the risk because flames tend to spread upwards. Fire smoke travels from the ceiling towards the floor. It means if the ceiling height is low, it will increase the risk of suffocation and will allow lesser time to evacuate safely. Overstocked or congested rooms can fill with smoke relatively faster, increasing the risk for workers in these areas.

The code of conduct includes several standards governing fire safety. Auditors carefully examine and access the factory’s steps for minimizing fire risk and preparedness for fire fighting. They look for potential source of fire such as loose wires, adequacy of fire fighting equipment, workers’ awareness about safe evacuation procedures, fire safety plan and necessary records and documentation.

Factories should make serious efforts to put in place extensive fire safety procedures. Fire accidents can not only destroy assets and lives, they can throw the factory out of business. Brands do not want to work with a factory which does not have an effective fire safety mechanism.

The key components of an effective fire safety plan are: fire prevention, fire fighting and safe evacuation. In the following sections, several steps are discussed to prevent and minimize the fire risk as well as improve the emergency handling capacity.

How to implement the code of conduct

The following measures may be taken to comply with fire safety norms of a code of conduct:

  • Check the local regulations applicable to your factory for specific fire safety measure.
  • Law in many countries requires factories of certain size to appoint a fire safety officer. Check if the law in your country requires it.
  • The local law in many countries requires factories to obtain operating licence, no objection certificates and approvals for fire safety from various authorities. Check if the law in your country requires such clearances or inspection.
  • The factory should have a written fire safety plan. This is more applicable if the factory employs a large number of workers.

Fire extinguishers

A fire extinguisher is the most basic and common device fore fire fighting. The code of conduct requires the factory to install an adequate number of suitable extinguishers. There should be enough workers trained in using them.

The following measures should be taken with regard to fire extinguishers:

  • Enough number of suitable type industrial fire extinguishers should be placed in all work areas. In some countries, the local law provides a guideline as to how many fire extinguishers should be placed in a given area.
  • Fire extinguishers should be visible and easily accessible to workers.
  • The site of fire extinguishers should have yellow/red or yellow/black marking to make them visible from a distance.
  • Fire extinguishers should be mounted on the wall on a zebra marking (red/yellow or black/yellow). Workers of average height should be able to easily dismount the extinguisher for use in case of fire.
  • The floor space below the fire extinguishers should have a yellow box with a cross mark to indicate that the space should be kept clear and unobstructed.
  • Each fire extinguisher should have a serial number for easy identification and record.
  • Regular maintenance/refilling of fire extinguishers should be carried out and the same should be documented. Periodically check the pressure gauge of each fire extinguisher.
  • There should be a poster in the local language next to extinguisher describing how to use it.
  • It is better to use the multipurpose type fire extinguishers.
  • If multipurpose type fire extinguishers are not being used, care should be taken to ensure that the type of extinguisher matches the type of potential fire threat. In this case, different extinguishers are required for electrical panels, combustible material, flammable liquids, generators etc.
  • The type of extinguisher should be clearly indicated on the label.
  • All workers should be trained in the use of fire extinguishers. However, a few workers/supervisors in each section/ floor should be given advanced training in fire fighting. Name and photographs of such personnel should be posted in the department at a prominent place.

Know more about fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are pressurized devices which release pressurized water or chemicals to put out fire. Fire extinguishers are suitable for small size of fire in the early stages. They work on the principle of separating the elements of fire. There are several types of extinguishers specific to a class of fire. Fire extinguishers are rated according to their specific use and capability.

Fire extinguishing principles

There are four elements in a fire: 1. enough oxygen to sustain the combustion 2. Enough heat to reach ignition temperature 3. Fuel to support combustion 4. Chemical reaction among the there. The first three elements are also called “the fire triangle.” If any one of these is separated, the fire will extinguish. Therefore, the concept of fire safety involves separating these elements from one another.

It is important to note that not all fires are the same. Different materials produce different kinds of fire. Therefore, different extinguishing agents are required to put out different type of fire.

Fire Classification

There fire basic classes of fire depending on the fuel source. Following is the list of various classes of fire:

Class A

Class A fire includes ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, plastic, trash and non-metal solids.

Class B

Class B fire involves flammable liquids such as petroleum, acetone, solvents, gasoline, grease, oil as well as flammable gases such as butane and propane.

Class C

Class C fire involves electrically energized equipment, electrical motors, transformers, wiring, power tools, fuse boxes etc.

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