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Fires in warehouses are a common occurrence, often causing widespread damage and resulting in serious business interruption. Some of the largest fire losses recorded in the UK have involved storage and distribution premises as distinct from the manufacturing environment.

Having regard to the nature of goods stored, the storage methods employed including considerable high piled storage and the presence of combustible packaging, the fire load in warehouse buildings is often immense. Coupled with the trend for such buildings to be constructed on an increasing scale in relation to footprint and cubic capacity, the potential for rapid fire spread and total loss scenarios can be extremely high.



Recommendations for fire safety in warehouses are comprehensively covered in RC18, a copy of which is filed in ATLAS. The information in this document, which should be observed by all Consultants as “best practice”, is published under the following sections:


  1. Compliance with fire safety legislation 

  2. Business continuity

  3. Fire safety management 

  4. Arson prevention 

  5. Compartmentation 

  6. Electricity, gas and other services 

  7. Fire protection


By way of further guidance, Consultants should also refer to the aide memoire overleaf which relates to the specific features of storage and distribution risks and is supplementary to the multi discipline aide memoire contained in Operational Procedures.


Additional RISCAuthority guidance relevant to storage and distribution risks include:


  • RC7: Recommendations for hot work.

  • RC11: Recommendations for the use of fork-lift trucks.

  • RC17: Recommendations for fire safety in shrink-wrapping processes.

  • RC19: Recommendations for the storage of aerosol products.

  • RC55 & 56: Recommendations for fire safety in the storage, handling and use of flammable and highly flammable liquids

  • RC43: Recommendations for fire safety in the storage and use of oxidising materials.

  • RC51: Recommendations regarding smoking at work.


This is designed to be printed and used on site when needed, as a check list to assist in completing the fire and perils (Material Damage) disciplines of surveys of storage and distribution risks, excluding major chemicals warehouses.  The document is not intended to be fully exhaustive, but is focused towards common, key risk features.

Storage Operations

  • Nature of materials stored (including associated packaging), storage methods and maximum storage heights employed.

  • Premises layout.

  • Presence of hazardous goods and materials such as flammable liquids, gases and aerosol products, and nature of separation/segregation and other fire safety measures; compliance with DSEAR.

  • Nature and extent of packing operations and packing materials stored.


  • Storage of idle pallets.


  • Suitable precautions observed with regard to shrink-wrapping operations with reference to RISCAuthority recommendations RC17.

  • Nature, extent and suitability of any external storage arrangements.


  • Battery chargers serving fork-lift trucks suitably guarded/segregated. Suitable ventilation/extraction provided in respect of hydrogen gas explosion risk from battery charging operations; compliance with DSEAR


  • Exhaust outlets to diesel and LPG powered trucks fitted spark arresters as required.


  • Where LPG fork-lift trucks employed, nature of LPG storage arrangements. Similarly, diesel storage for diesel powered trucks.


  • Trucks employed in hazardous areas ATEX compliant.

Management and Housekeeping

  • Nature and frequency of waste removal arrangements.

  • General tidiness and order throughout, including restrooms, maintenance workshops and other ancillary areas.


  • Voids below raised loading ramps or dock levellers, under raised floors and similar structures clear and sealed-up where appropriate.


  • Safe storage of polystyrene beads, shredded paper and similar highly combustible, loose fill packing materials.

  • Adherence to practices of safe stacking and the provision of adequate gangways with fire exits clear.

  • Effective smoking controls.

  • Safe storage of external timber pallets, plastic crates, etc – preferably a minimum distance of 10m from buildings or 1.5 times the storage height, whichever is the greater, and a minimum 2m from the site boundary.

  • Safe location and security of waste skips etc.

  • Effective closedown procedures in place.

  • Control of hot work (via a recognised permit to work system), and other contractors operations.

  • No rubbish burning.

  • Ongoing programme of documented fire safety self-inspections.


Fire Protection


  • Nature and extent of active protection & detection systems provided – e.g. sprinklers, fire detection, smoke venting, etc. with particular reference to design criteria and effectiveness.


  • Provision of suitable fire extinguishers.

  • Presence of remote fire alarm signalling

  • Correct maintenance of all fire protection systems and equipment.

  • Staff training and awareness.

  • Fire evacuation and other emergency procedures.

  • Maintenance, clearance and manual closure of fire doors and shutters.

  • Where Sprinklers are installed:


-- Commodities stored, storage methods employed and maximum storage heights matched to system design.

-- Changes in commodity storage or storage methods that may have occurred since the sprinkler system was designed/installed that may affect the adequacy of the sprinklers – e.g. introduction of plastic tote bins, presence of aerosols, flammable liquids etc, installation of solid shelving.

-- Sprinkler heads maintained clear of stock as prescribed.

-- All control valves maintained clear of storage and accessible at all times.

-- Where “wet” system installed, heating arrangements maintained at all times (including end of year shutdown) sufficient to prevent frost damage. Presence of frost-stat controls (minimum 4oC required.)

-- Heads exposed to damage from the movement of stock suitably guarded.

  • Availability of the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), water supplies and FRS response to calls originating from automatic fire alarms (where appropriate).


  • Liaison with the FRS (in high risk premises).

  • Provision of a Premises Information Box containing fire and emergency information relevant to the premises.


  • Maintenance of suitable FRS access  



  • Age and condition of electrical installation.

  • Date of last electrical inspection and arrangements for PAT testing.  Details of any thermographic inspections.


  • Light fittings and other electrical equipment kept clear of stock with particular reference to HID lamps.


  • Nature and suitability of heating arrangements. Are temporary heaters employed in severe weather.


  • Fixed heaters sited clear of combustibles and adequately guarded, with similar attention to flue pipes where passing through or near to storage racks and mezzanine floors or through combustible wall or roof panelling.


  • Storage racks maintained clear of overhead heaters where a minimum 1m clearance should be observed.


  • Segregation of transformer rooms, electrical switchrooms and other plant rooms, which are maintained clear of storage.


  • Assessment of overall security protections against unauthorised entry and potential arson – to include:

-- Physical protections to the buildings

-- Intruder alarms

-- Perimeter fencing

-- CCTV surveillance

-- Manned security guarding

-- Premises surveillance during periods of extended closure

-- Access control

-- Oil and other flammable liquid tanks and pumps suitably secured.

Storm and Flood

  • Susceptibility of stock.

  • Nature of storage arrangements – stillage’s, palletised stocks etc.

  • Type, location and condition of the buildings.


  • Extent and condition and plumbing systems.

  • Presence and inspection/maintenance of internal valley gutters, downpipes and drains.

  • Suitability/adequacy of heating arrangements during periods of extended closure.

  • Potential exposure from poorly drained surroundings, rivers and other watercourses.

  • EA/SEPA/Natural Resources Wales flood data.

  • Presence of flood resistance and resilience measures, and flood planning.


  • Suitability of access and general site conditions.


  • Fork-lift driver training and controls.


  • Appropriate impact protection where applicable, with particular regard to sprinklers, fire doors and compartment walls exposed to damage from fork-lift trucks.  Racking inspections carried out and documented regularly by trained personnel.

TG03: Storage and Distribution Risks

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