Fire Safety Planning for Wood Dust

Wood Dust Producing Operations Fire Safety Planning

June 5, 2013

The purpose of this Information Bulletin is to provide industry with an easy to follow checklist to assist them in meeting the fire safety planning requirements of the BC Fire Code (BCFC). The goal is to prevent fires and explosions in buildings containing a wood dust producing operation, reducing the risk to life and property.

This bulletin only covers the following provincial fire code requirement. Specifically:

  • BCFC, Division B, Subsection 5.1.5 requires that a fire safety plan be prepared for operations that involve a risk from explosion, high flammability or related conditions that create a hazard to life safety.

The owner or owner’s authorized agent is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the BCFC, which includes establishing a fire safety plan to ensure that:

  • Fire hazards will be controlled.
  • Emergency responders will be notified of a fire emergency.
  • Emergency responders will not be delayed in carrying out their duties.
  • Firefighting operations will be managed effectively, without unnecessary delays.
  • Designated supervisory staff will be appointed and organized to respond to fire emergencies.
  • Instructions including schematic diagrams describing the type, location and operation of building fire emergency systems will be established.
  • Building facilities, systems, equipment and devices will be properly inspected and maintained.

The fire safety plan not only reflects the unique characteristics of the building and the dust producing operation it contains, but also considers the available firefighting infrastructure. For this reason, the fire safety plan must be prepared by the owner or owner’s authorized agent in cooperation with the local fire department and other applicable regulatory authorities.

It’s important for the owner or authorized agent of the owner to:

  • Ensure they are also in compliance with laws and regulations applicable within British Columbia and the local jurisdiction
  • Consult the local fire department and other regulatory authorities such as BC Safety Authority and WorkSafeBC.

Fire safety planning and risk management assessments of the site are essential to prepare for and manage fire hazards. Planning and assessment will identify and lead to methods and processes that will minimize or contain potential fire hazards. All site safety activities should be coordinated through the planning and assessment process.

BCFC provisions form part of the fire safety plan and are applied depending on the conditions at the site, such as the size and type of building, the amount of dust produced, potential ignition sources, etc...

At a minimum, a fire safety plan should include the following information:

1.       Emergency procedures and information needed to plan for an emergency:

  • Who is the designate and back-up person responsible to sound the fire alarm (horn)?
  • Who is the designate and back-up person responsible to notify the fire department (9-1-1)?
  • Is instruction given to site personnel on the procedure to follow when an alarm is sounded?
  • Are exit routes clearly visible within the site and on all floors?
  • Is the muster point (or meeting place) known by all site personnel?
  • Is there a list of on-site personnel, and is it updated and current? (Can everybody on-site be accounted for?)
  • Are there assigned personnel to meet the fire department upon arrival and give information, such as the location of the fire, persons that are unable to evacuate, or injured person(s)?
  • Are there persons assigned as site fire wardens (ensuring various trades are represented)?
  • Are there personnel directed and trained to confine or control the fire?

2.       Training of site personnel on evacuation procedures:

  • Is site orientation provided?
  • Are regular site fire safety meetings a part of regular safety meetings?
  • Are simulated fire drills conducted when applicable and warranted?

3.       Training of site personnel on identifying dust hazards:

  • Are personnel able to recognize potential fire and explosion hazards identified during fire safety planning and risk management assessments?
  • Are personnel able to identify when the accumulation of wood dust becomes a hazard? See OFC Combustible Dust Bulletin

4.       Training of site personnel to perform fire prevention duties:

  • Are the amounts of combustibles and accumulated wood dust on the site and around the buildings controlled to mitigate fire and explosion hazards?
  • Is general site housekeeping being carried out?
  • Are maintenance schedules for combustible dust operations and dust collections systems created and updated for sign off by site supervisor?
  • Are excess pallets, garbage/waste material and other combustibles removed on a regular basis?
  • Is the separation of combustibles from open flame devices being maintained?
  • Is there a clear unobstructed access route(s) for fire department apparatus and to fire hydrants?
  • Are designated exit routes from every floor maintained?
  • Are access routes separated from stored combustible materials, equipment, etc.
  • Are vehicles or delivery trucks able to park so they do not obstruct fire department access routes to site or to adjacent buildings? If not, has off-site parking and storage been considered?

5.       Firefighting Services – Hydrant, Siamese Connection, Sprinkler, and Access Route:

  • Are they installed, tested and maintained?
  • Are firefighter access route(s) to the building provided?
  • Are firefighting services (standpipes, hydrants) maintained and accessible?
  • Do drawings provided to the fire department show the location of firefighting systems as they become operational?
  • Is the site address sign visible and legible to emergency crews from the street? (If they must be provided according to bylaw.)
  • Are fire suppression and explosion prevention systems incorporated within dust collection systems and duct work inspected and maintained?
  • Are explosion venting gates on the dust collectors and buildings clearly indentified and maintained?

6.       Fire Extinguishers:

  • Is there sufficient quantity and type on-site? Such as:
    • 2-A: 10-B:C on movable equipment?
    • 4-A: 40-B:C in all other locations?
  • Is the servicing up–to-date (within the last year)?
  • Are they provided at or near fuel operated equipment?
  • Are they mounted with proper signage at exit locations within the required travel distance?
  • Are they adjacent to any hot works operations (e.g. cutting torch, welding, grinding, etc)?

7.       Hot Works Operations:

  • Is the area clear of flammable and combustible materials?
  • Is a fire watch assigned during a hot works operation and for 60 minutes after its completion?
  • Is there a final inspection of the hot works area four hours after completion?
  • Are the hot works in the proximity of combustible or flammable materials?
  • Have provisions been made for protection of such materials by non-combustible materials, thermal barrier or other means?
  • Is the work being performed by trained or certified personnel?
  • Is a fire extinguisher present at all times? Such as:
    • 2-A: 10-B:C on movable equipment?
    • 4-A: 40-B:C in all other locations?
  • Is proper ventilation provided as required?
  • Are the hot tar pots on-site complete with fire extinguishers, trained personnel, and located away from combustible materials?

8.       Flammable and Combustible Storage:

  • Are flammable and combustible liquids properly stored, handled and used in and around the building?
  • Are non-petroleum based compressed gases properly stored, handled and used in and around the building?
  • Is the storage area separated from combustible material by three metres?
  • Is the storage area locked and vented?
  • Is the storage area protected from vehicular/ industrial motorized traffic?
  • Do containers and/or storage areas have proper signage/placards in place?
  • Is there a current or updated list of dangerous goods on-site such as material safety data sheets (MSDS), as per the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)?
  • Are portable extinguishers provided in close proximity to storage and work areas such as:
    • 2-A: 10-B:C on movable equipment?
    • 4-A: 40-B:C in all other locations?
  • Is the storage area away from egress and access routes to the site?

9.       Electrical Installations and Petroleum Gases:

10.   Security:

  • What type of on-site security is provided: e.g. locked gate, monitored alarm and/or CCTV, 24 hour or nightly walk around?
  • Do security personnel have knowledge of and understand their role in the site’s fire safety plan?
  • Can the fire department effectively communicate with the security personnel during an emergency?
  • Do security personnel have access (keys) to locked areas?

11.   Contact Personnel:

  •  Is there a list of names and telephone numbers of persons to be contacted during and after normal operating hours or in the event of an emergency?
  • Are the contact personnel able to respond in a timely fashion?
  • What is their estimated response time?

12.   Building Diagrams:

  • Are diagrams available on-site? These diagrams should indicate:
    • Layout of each floor area
    • Muster point(s)
    • Location of nearest hydrant(s)
    • Location of fire protection equipment
    • Exit paths, and
    • Service rooms

The fire safety plan must be reviewed at least annually, and updated whenever changes to the manufacturing process occur, to provide the greatest value. The plan that is developed for a building where dust producing operations occur is used to maintain and protect the building and its occupants. It’s very important that all supervisory staff remain familiar with the plan so they are aware of how it pertains to their responsibilities. The fire safety plan must be retained on site for review by the fire department, supervisory staff, personnel, and other applicable regulatory authorities.

Even though the BCFC does not regulate the format of a fire safety plan, some local fire departments like the fire safety plans in their jurisdiction to be uniform. The Fire Prevention Officers’ Association of British Columbia (FPOABC) website provides an example of a format that may provide useful information that will help you when developing your fire safety plan in cooperation with the local fire department. Although the Office of the Fire Commissioner is not responsible for the content on non- government websites, the link to the FPOABC fire safety plan documentation is provided.

It may also be beneficial to owners to obtain the services of a consultant who specializes in fire safety planning and risk management assessments. This consultant would oversee the fire safety plan’s development and implementation. This is especially useful to owners who have neither the time nor the expertise to develop their own plan as well as when a fire department isn’t available to them.

The BCFC is available online for general public access, and available at local Public Libraries.