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Incidents in industry

Hazard Knowledge

This section contains generic control measures that should be applied when dealing with any incident in an industrial site, whatever the context, size or complexity.

There are many types of working environments in industry, some of which will present the hazards associated with utilities and fuelworking at height or in enclosed spaces. A variety of different physical, health and environmental hazards may pose significant risks to fire and rescue service personnel, other responders and members of the public, regardless of the incident type.

Hazards that are common at incidents in industry that are covered in other areas of National Operational Guidance include:

The guidance presumes that businesses and organisations are complying with relevant regulations. Breaches in health and safety legislation or regulations at an industrial site may make fire and rescue service attendance more hazardous.

Illegal activities can present significant hazards to fire and rescue service personnel. Such activities include:

  • Setting malicious (booby) traps
  • Cultivating and producing illegal drugs
  • Illegal activity involving electricity (see National Operational Guidance: Utilities and fuel)
  • Illegal storage of hazardous materials, such as fireworks or fuel
  • Unregulated building alterations affecting layout, stability and fire protection
  • Unapproved change of use

Business continuity

There may be business interruption as a result of some incidents, resulting in significant impact (including financial losses) to businesses, or disruption to infrastructure and communities.

In such an event, the incident commander may be put under pressure by businesses, other organisations or the wider community. It may be necessary to assist with business resumption to minimise the impact of the incident.

There is the potential for litigation and for the reputation of the fire and rescue service to be damaged, if they do not consider business continuity plans.

Presence of hazardous substances

Personnel need to be aware of the potential presence of hazardous substances and the possibility they may need to be managed and controlled. There may be limited or no information available about the hazardous substances.

When gathering information for Site-Specific Risk Information (SSRI) and emergency response plans, a record of the type and quantities of hazardous substances should be made.

Hazardous substances within industry include:

  • Chemicals and pharmaceuticals
  • Fuel and lubricants
  • Gases, including landfill gas - see supplementary information
  • Asbestos
  • Paint
  • Pyrotechnics, munitions and explosives
  • Biohazards
  • Radioactive materials

Personnel should be aware that hazardous substances may not be stored in accordance with regulations. This could include fuels being stored in tanks without bunds, or substances in unsuitable or unlabelled containers. Radioactive materials, discarded fireworks or munitions may also be present.

At illegal waste sites, there may be a higher risk of finding hazardous substances with little or no information about the contents.

For more information about hazardous materials refer to Foundation for hazardous materials and National Operational Guidance: Hazardous materials.

Unstable ground

Unstable ground may commonly be encountered at industries such as:

  • Mines
  • Quarries
  • Waste sites
  • Agricultural sites
  • Wildlife parks
  • Festivals
  • Construction sites
  • Caravan and camping sites
  • Military and defence establishments
  • Shooting clubs

Combustible dust

Many materials produce dust that is combustible; in the form of a cloud such dust can explode if ignited. Anything that can burn, and that exists in a fine powder form, presents a hazard, for example:

  • Sugar
  • Coal
  • Wood
  • Grain
  • Certain metals
  • Synthetic organic chemicals

Refer the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication, Safe handling of combustible dusts: Precautions against explosions for further information.

Respirable dust, fibres and fumes

Many manufacturing processes will produce dust, fibres and fumes either as part of production or as a waste product. If contained and managed, they should not pose a significant risk to attending personnel. However, any respirable dust, fibres or fumes can be hazardous to health; they may affect the eyes and skin, as well as the lungs and respiratory system.

The dust, fibres or fumes produced may be combustible or a hazardous material.

For more information about machine-made mineral fibres (MMMF) refer to the Health and Safety executive: Man-made mineral fibres (MMMF).