Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
Fire is a serious risk for the environment. You should always try to reduce the risk of fire and so reduce the environmental damage that fire and firefighting can cause.
Carry out a fire risk assessment to identify and reduce potential causes of site fires. Use the assessment to reduce potential sources of ignition, stop the ways fire could spread once started and set up fire controls such as extinguishers and sprinklers.
Use and store flammable or explosive materials safely.
Check that your firefighting foams are authorised and all banned foams have been replaced.
Create an incident response plan which includes measures for protecting the environment if there is a fire. Keep the plan up to date, practise it, display it clearly for all staff and review it regularly.
In the event of fire, prevent firewater from escaping, for example by temporarily blocking drains or using a containment barrier. Firewater is water which has become contaminated after being used for firefighting.
Ensure all staff know how to react if there is a fire.
You may have responsibilities for fire safety in your business premises.
Comply with ozone depleting substances and fluorinated gases regulations
Ensure that your fire protection systems and fire extinguishing equipment comply with the ozone depleting substances (ODS) and fluorinated gases (F-gas) regulations.
Do not keep or use firefighting or fire protection equipment containing halons. Halons are now banned and must be disposed of at a licensed facility.
If your fire protection or firefighting equipment contain F-gases you must:
If your fire protection system contains the equivalent of 5 tonnes of CO2 or more of F-gases you must:
If your system contains 50 tonnes or more CO2 equivalent you must check for leaks at least every six months.
If your system contains more than 50 tonnes CO2 equivalent you must test for leaks every three months.
HFC23 - 0.3kg is equivalent to 5 tonnes of CO2 , 3.4kg is equivalent to 50 tonnes of CO2
HFC 227- 1.6kg is equivalent to 5 tonnes of CO2 , 15.5 kg is equivalent to 50 tonnes of CO2
F-gas Support has information sheets covering F-gases and fire protection system Standards for UK businesses.
From July 2010, if you work with F-gases in fire protection systems and firefighting equipment you will need to hold a qualification issued by the Fire Industry Association (FIA).
You will need to pass specific modules to carry out certain tasks and work on different types of equipment.
For further details contact F-gas Support.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is a chemical used in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) which is highly polluting if it escapes into the environment. AFFF foams were used to fight fires involving flammable liquids like fuel (Class B fires).
PFOS has been phased out and is no longer available on the market. Alternative products are available.
Due to their potential to harm the environment it is good practice to return foams containing PFOS or PFOS related substances to the manufacturer for disposal by incineration.
When you test extinguishers and carry out firefighting exercises you must not allow used foams to escape. You must contain them for disposal off site. You can also get approval from your sewage operator to discharge foam into the foul sewer.
If you store large quantities of dangerous substances you may need a major accident prevention policy under the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) regulations.
For more information on preventing accidents and emergency plans, see our COMAH guidance.
You must not burn tyres, plastics, chemicals, oil or any form of waste on your site unless you are authorised by your local council to do so in a boiler, furnace or incinerator.
If you emit dark smoke you could be prosecuted by your local council in Northern Ireland or SEPA in Scotland.
Firewater is water that has become contaminated by being used for firefighting. It is polluting and may be classified as hazardous/special waste. You must not discharge firewater into the environment. Ensure you have a plan and equipment in place to collect or contain it in the event of an emergency.
Store firewater correctly and ensure that it is treated and disposed of by a permitted or licensed waste management business. You may also be able get permission from your water company or water authority to discharge it into the foul sewer.
You should store chemicals, fuel, oil or other flammable materials correctly to reduce possible fire risk.
Invite the Fire and Rescue Service and relevant authorities to your site to discuss potential outcomes of fires, how to prevent them, best practice techniques and how to develop an incident response plan.
Assess firefighting response options as part of the plan. You may consider a controlled burn to minimise water and air pollution.
To prevent firewater from running into surface drains, polluting nearby watercourses (rivers, streams and groundwater), foul drainage systems, and land, you should:
Pollution prevention guideline (PPG) 18 contains guidance on firewater containment systems.
Bund containment systems. This involves building a secondary barrier around the main containment system, to hold products and firewater if the main containment fails. Ensure the bund is resistant to both heat, and the products you store.
Pollution prevention guideline (PPG) 2 contains guidance on bunding and storage.
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