Operational fire protection - responsibilities & measures

Measures for handling areas at risk of fire and explosion as well as flammable substances in the company.

Operational fire protection - Responsibility Measures

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8 March 2023 Fire Safety

Operational fire protection covers the handling of areas at risk of fire and explosion as well as flammable substances and mixtures in the company. It also regulates who is responsible for what in operational fire protection and which fire protection measures should be implemented in the company. In this blog article, we will give you a compact overview of the topic of "operational fire protection".

Causes of fire in Germany

Workplace fire safety starts with knowledge of the causes of fires. The main causes of fires in workplaces are as follows:

  • Improper handling of work equipment, facilities, substances and mixtures.
  • Lack of staff training
  • Lack of risk awareness when handling hazardous materials and ignition sources
  • Faulty or overloaded electrical systems and equipment
  • Lack of maintenance and servicing
Responsibility for operational fire protection

1. Entrepreneurs and managers

The tasks regarding operational fire protection include:

  • Drawing up a risk assessment of fire hazards
  • Taking and monitoring technical and organisational measures
  • Providing and maintaining fire extinguishing equipment
  • Instructing employees in fire protection (prevention and fire fighting)
  • Conduct annual fire safety training
  • Check the effectiveness of the measures, e.g. through exercises.

Entrepreneurs and managers can appoint other persons to carry out their tasks, e.g. occupational safety specialists, fire safety officers, employees, etc.

2. Occupational safety specialists with fire protection knowledge

The tasks regarding operational fire protection include:

  • Advise internally on fire protection
  • Watching out for fire hazards and informing and suggesting measures in case of fire safety deficiencies
  • Investigate causes of fire, suggest appropriate measures for improved fire prevention
  • Informing and instructing all employees on fire safety.

If a fire safety officer is present, then work together to protect operational processes in a fire-safe manner.

3. Fire safety officer

Fire safety officers are necessary in company fire protection if specific regulations such as building law, workplace law or the conditions of property insurers prescribe this. All tasks, qualifications and training of fire safety officers are described in DGUV 205-003.

The tasks of a fire safety officer in operational fire protection include, for example:

  • Planning and executing operational facilities from a fire protection point of view
  • assessing working procedures and the use of working materials from the point of view of fire protection
  • identifying fire and explosion hazards
  • cooperating with supervisory authorities, fire brigades and fire insurers
  • to draw up e.g. fire protection regulations, escape and rescue plans, fire brigade plans
  • Train and educate company employees, e.g. as fire protection assistants.

4. Employees

Duties relating to company fire protection include:

  • Participate in fire safety instruction
  • Adjusting one's own behaviour so that fires and explosions cannot occur.
  • In case of fire, follow instructions such as warning other workers.

5. Safety officers

Tasks relating to occupational fire protection include:

  • Supporting measures for the prevention of occupational accidents
  • Drawing attention to accident and health hazards

6. Fire protection assistants

In principle, 5 % of the employees must be trained as fire protection assistants, unless the risk assessment shows a different number to be necessary. The tasks with regard to operational fire protection include:

  • Fighting incipient fires
  • Ensuring that endangered persons can escape in case of fire without endangering themselves.

If you have any questions about the responsibilities and tasks in company fire protection or need an external fire protection officer, please feel free to contact us.

A) Fire hazard areas

Betrieblicher Brandschutz - Brandgefährdeter Bereich

In operational fire protection, we speak of fire-hazardous areas when flammable substances (e.g. solvents, petrol vapours, paper, wood, plastics, metal dusts) are present and there is a possibility that a fire may occur. Fire hazard areas include, for example:

Measure for operational fire protection would be, for example:

  • Minimise fire load: Check whether there are alternative materials that have a lower fire load.
  • Marking of hazardous areas: Put up appropriate signs at entrances and in rooms, such as prohibition sign P003 (burning match symbol).
  • Train workers: Point out to employees the area at risk of fire, sensitise them to the handling of flammable substances and practise and optimise their behaviour on a regular basis.

We will support you in operational fire protection and the appropriate measures for the area at risk of fire, just write to us.

B) Potentially explosive atmospheres

Betrieblicher Brandschutz Explosionsgefährdeter Bereich

In operational fire protection, explosive atmospheres are those where a mixture of air and flammable gases, vapours, mists or dusts occurs which can develop into an effective source of ignition. These potentially explosive atmospheres include, for example:

Betrieblicher Brandschutz Lager Gasflaschen
Storage for flammable liquids and gases
Betrieblicher Brandschutz Tätigkeit Treibgas
Activities with pressurised gas packs / sprays and flammable propellants such as butane and propane
Betrieblicher Brandschutz Lösemittelhaltiges versprühen
Processing of solvent-based products that are sprayed or heated
Betrieblicher Brandschutz Holz-Stäube
Processing of light metal and wood where dusts are released

Measures for operational fire protection are regulated in the Technical Rules for Operational Safety (see TRBS 2152) and the Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances (see TRGS 720ff) and depend on the classification in a hazard zone.

We support you in operational fire protection and the appropriate measures for the hazardous area, just write to us.

C) Flammable substances and mixtures in operation

Betrieblicher Brandschutz Brennbare Stoffe

Flammable substances and mixtures in industrial fire protection include, for example, paints, varnishes and adhesives containing solvents, flammable sprays and gases, thinners and solvents, and flammable solids.

The Ordinance on Hazardous Substances stipulates that employers must check whether the substances, mixtures and products used can lead to fire hazards during activities, also taking into account the work equipment, processes and working environment used and their possible interactions. The measures of operational fire protection include:

  • Risk assessment: Companies should carry out a risk assessment to determine the hazard of flammable substances and mixtures and take appropriate measures to minimise the hazard. Consideration should be given to the quantities and concentration of the hazardous substances, the label on the container and the safety data sheet. Hazard assessments should be carried out regularly to ensure that operational fire safety measures are up to date and compliant. 
  • Storage: Flammable substances and mixtures should be stored in specially marked and suitable storage areas in accordance with legal requirements. The storage area should be well ventilated, dry and away from other flammable materials.
  • Labelling: All flammable substances and mixtures must be labelled according to their hazard class to ensure proper handling. Labels provide information on the type of substance, hazard symbols, storage and handling.
  • Training: Workers who work with flammable substances and mixtures must be trained in their handling and be aware of the hazards and risks. This includes the handling of hazardous substances, such as wearing protective clothing and following safety rules.

We can support you in operational fire protection and the appropriate measures for handling flammable substances and mixtures, just write to us.

1. Operational fire protection measure: escape routes and emergency exits

Escape routes and emergency exits are an essential part of operational fire protection and must be available at every workplace. An escape route is a way to leave a building safely and quickly in the event of a hazardous situation, such as a fire. Emergency exits are special exits that can be used in an emergency and lead directly outside.

Specifications for escape routes and emergency exits

Operational fire protection already starts here with the specifications from the fire protection concept or from the building permit procedure. Furthermore, additional requirements may arise from workplace legislation (ASR).

Measures on escape routes and emergency exits

  • Marking: Escape routes and emergency exits must be clearly marked and must not be blocked by objects or materials. The markings must be clearly visible and illuminated so that they can be recognised in conditions of limited visibility. 
  • Minimum width: Escape routes and emergency exits should have a minimum width to ensure rapid evacuation. The exact width is defined by law and depends on the number of people using the escape route. 
  • Lighting: Escape routes and emergency exits should be clearly visible even in the event of a power failure or smoke. They must therefore be sufficiently illuminated to ensure rapid evacuation. 
  • Accessibility: Escape routes and emergency exits must also be accessible to people with limited mobility. Ramps or stair lifts can be installed for this purpose.
  • Fire brigade access: Stairwells and corridors are escape routes for the fire brigade; these, as well as access routes and installation areas, must be kept clear at all times.
  • Escape and rescue plan: To ensure that all staff know which escape routes and emergency exits are available in the event of a fire, an escape and rescue plan must be displayed and it must be ensured that it is always up to date.
  • Training: Employees must be trained in how to behave in the event of an evacuation and which is the best escape route. 

Safe implementation of operational fire protection. We draw up escape and rescue plans and mark the escape routes, please ask for a quote.

2. Operational fire protection measure: safety lighting

Escape routes must always be visible and safe to use, even if the general lighting fails; safety lighting provides orientation in the event of danger.

Specifications for safety lighting

The Technical Rules for Workplaces (ASR A3 4/7) provide information on the planning and installation of safety lighting. Thus, safety lighting may be required if, for example, rooms have no daylight, large halls or offices have to be crossed or there are many people who are unfamiliar with the area. Operational fire protection is thus ensured.

We install, test and repair safety lighting. Please ask for a quotation.

3. Operational fire protection measure: safety and health protection labelling

The colours, shapes and symbols of prohibition, warning, mandatory and rescue signs are specified in the Technical Rules for Workplaces (ASR A1.3). Workers must be regularly trained on the meaning of these markings. Operational fire protection is supported by prevention work.

4. Operational fire protection measure: operating instructions and briefing

Workers must be instructed at appropriate intervals, but at least once a year, on the "principles of prevention" according to DGUV 1 or need an operating instruction if the activity involves handling hazardous substances. The instruction must be adapted to the employee's work area and may include, for example, the following:

  • knowledge transfer on incipient fires and explosions
  • Extinguishing fires with existing fire protection equipment
  • Understanding escape and rescue plans
  • Correct behaviour in case of fire or danger
  • Handling hazardous substances and work equipment

The content as well as the time of the instruction must be recorded in writing and confirmed by the signature of the instructed person. Training and prevention are efficient measures for operational fire protection. 

Operational fire protection and prevention belong together. We offer fire protection training and fire protection instruction, please ask for a quotation.

5. Operational fire protection measure: transport and storage

Not only the storage of flammable substances, but also the transport are part of operational fire protection.

Betrieblicher Brandschutz Transport brennbare Stoffe

Transport of flammable substances

  • Load securing equipment, superstructures in accordance with the applicable rules of technology.
  • Loads must be packed, secured and labelled.
  • Transport of dangerous goods and substances, safety measures according to the regulations have to be observed (see "Gefahrgutverordnung Straße, Eisenbahn und Binnenschifffahrt" GGVSEB as well as for small quantities the dangerous goods calculator on WINGIS-Online).

Storage of flammable liquids and gases

  • Draw up a risk assessment
  • Operate, monitor and maintain storage facilities
  • No ignition sources in the vicinity such as open flame, sparks, hot surfaces, direct sunlight or extreme temperatures
  • Store and protect pressurised gas cylinders in well-ventilated areas (e.g. outdoors) (e.g. by using a lockable gas cylinder container)
  • Separate flammable and oxidising liquids
  • Eliminate any defects that occur
  • Provide suitable extinguishing agents in sufficient quantity
  • Keep escape and rescue routes clear
Betrieblicher Brandschutz Lagerung Gasflaschen

6. Operational fire protection measure: combustible dusts

Combustible dust can create a dangerous, explosive atmosphere by being stirred up. A dust explosion is to be expected if the grain size is smaller than 0.5 mm and there is a concentration of about 15g/m³ of dust in the air. Operational fire protection measures to prevent an explosive atmosphere may include the following:

  • Regularly remove combustible dusts so that an explosive dust-air mixture does NOT occur.
  • Use of special equipment such as ignition source-free explosion-proof hoovers in accordance with ATEX 95
Betrieblicher Brandschutz Brennbare Stäube

7. Operational fire protection measure: hot and fire work

Welding, cutting, soldering, thawing and abrasive cutting work and the heating of materials pose a particular fire hazard. Operational fire protection is particularly important for such work. Measures relating to operational fire protection are:

Betrieblicher Brandschutz Feuerarbeiten
  • Draw up a risk assessment, also with a view to alternative processes without ignition hazards.
  • Welding and flame-cutting work should only be carried out by skilled personnel over 18 years of age.
  • Depending on the risk assessment, written permission (permit) must be obtained from the company management.
  • Remove flammable materials (e.g. packaging, oils, paints) from the vicinity; if not possible, cover with a flame-retardant tarpaulin.
  • Seal wall, ceiling and floor openings to adjacent areas.
  • Provide suitable fire extinguishing equipment, e.g. a fire extinguisher of the appropriate fire class
  • Provide a fire guard who can carry out initial extinguishing measures in the event of an emergency and who makes regular inspection rounds after the end of the activity to check the surrounding area for smouldering nests, etc.

We support you in your company's fire protection; an external fire protection officer helps with risk assessment or fire watch. Please do not hesitate to ask for a quotation.

Corporate fire protection can only work if all those responsible take the task seriously and the legal requirements or specifications from the fire protection concept or the risk assessment are adhered to.

Operational fire protection - do you still have questions?

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