Monthly Archives: August 2022

Take a Proactive Approach to Fire Safety

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BatteriesDuring the warmer months there is always an increased risk of fire in many areas, including waste and recycling plants. This is due to the presence of things like batteries in waste, vehicles and machinery. Batteries are found more often in waste streams these days, as they are frequently included in children’s toys and mobile phones. In fact they are now more prevalent than ever and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and specifications.

Thermal runaway is a risk where batteries are concerned, causing the battery to overheat and pose a fire risk. Excess heat is generated when batteries fail, malfunction, become damaged, are overcharged or have too much voltage. They can then combust and emit toxic gases or sometimes cause explosions. When fires on waste sites have been looked into, it has become obvious that batteries are not being disposed of in the correct way. They are frequently being thrown into the general waste as opposed to being recycled.

This is a volatile situation as batteries are then often damaged by machinery and surrounded by combustible materials. Batteries ending up at general waste facilities is becoming a major headache for managers etc. Operational downtime due to fire can cripple a waste or recycling business. Even if it’s a minor fire, equipment etc may be damaged, and usually the site must be closed while investigations and risk assessments take place.

There was a fire of this type at a recycling site in the UK in 2021, as a result of a battery being present. A lack of fire protection at the site meant that the fire was able to spread quickly leading to whole-site loss. The facility had to be completely rebuilt, costing several million euros. There was also the cost of operational downtime, reputational damage and any fines or sanctions enforced by the Environment Agency (EA). A simple fire protection system could have averted the situation for a fraction of the expense.


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