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Warehouse fire safety

The following are some code requirements and recommendations that apply to many warehouse operations.

Smaller warehouses may not legally require them, automated sprinkler should be considered as standard requirement in any warehouse.

Storage should be maintained at least 18 inches below sprinkler head deflectors.

In racked storage, transverse flue spaces of at least 3 inches should be maintained. Transverse flue space is the space to either side of a racked pallet.

In racked storage, longitudinal flue spaces of at least 6 inches should be maintained. Longitudinal flue space is the space between the rows of back-to-back rack. It is important to note that the flue space is measured as the distance between the loads, not the distance between the racks. In a standard pallet rack configuration you will usually have 3 inches of pallet overhang, calculating this into the flue space would require the rows of rack to be at least 12 inches apart.

Most warehouses meeting the above flue space requirements do not require in-rack sprinkler systems. Racking with solid decking, storage configurations that prevent maintaining the flue spaces, storage of high hazard materials, or storage greater than 40 feet in height will probably require in-rack sprinklers.

Dead end aisles must not be more than 50 feet in length.

In solid piled floor storage there must be an aisle at least every 100 feet and within 50 feet of walls when materials are stored against the wall. Essentially this means that any portion of the solid piled storage should be within 50 feet of an aisle.

During restocking operations using manual stocking methods (using stock carts, rolling ladders, etc.) a minimum unobstructed aisle width of 24 inches or ½ the aisle width, whichever is greater, must be maintained.

During mechanical stocking operations a minimum unobstructed aisle width of 44 inches must be maintained.

Automated material handling equipment such as carousels and ASRS units will have additional code requirements to prevent the equipment’s motion from spreading a fire.

Smoking is prohibited in warehouses and no smoking signs are required.

Battery charging areas have specific code requirements including ventilation, acid neutralization, eye wash stations, and spill control systems.

Liquid Propane fuel cylinders used on LP forklifts should not be stored within 20 feet of fire exits and are limited to a maximum quantity of 300 lbs per storage location. This is the equivalent of six 43 lb cylinders or nine 33lb cylinders. Empty cylinders are considered full for this calculation. If additional storage locations are required they must be separated by a minimum of 300 feet.

Plastics. Plastic content is the single storage characteristic most likely to contribute to a class IV or Class V high-hazard commodity classification. The classification is based upon the type of plastic and the overall content, measured by percent by weight for unexpanded plastics and percent by volume and weight for expanded plastics. This is where operational changes such as changing packaging materials from paper based to polystyrene or changing from wooden to plastic pallets can have a substantial impact.

Aerosols. “Rocketing” is a term used to describe the ability of aerosol containers to propel themselves across a warehouse, carrying a trail of fire behind them. There is a whole series of codes dedicated to the storage requirements for aerosol products. Depending upon the chemical content and the amount of aerosols stored (measured by weight), separation areas, chain-link fence enclosures, fire walls, and additional sprinkler protection may be required.

Hazardous Materials. Flammable liquids, solids, and gasses, explosives, oxidizers, and reactive materials fall under the category of Hazardous materials and have their own series of codes that apply. You’re definitely going to need some expert guidance when storing these types of materials.

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