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The RISCAuthority has produced RC 45: Risk Control - Fire safety in the electroplating industry, a copy of which is filed in the RSG Information Centre. This is an excellent publication and is to be referred to by Consultants for guidance as regards fire risk assessment and control measures specific to electroplating processes. The intention is that this should apply not just to stand-alone plating businesses, but also to ancillary plating processes which are often encountered within manufacturing premises generally. 

As a result of the environmentally unfriendly nature of plating processes, many plating works have tended in the past to be located in old buildings, often of unfavourable construction, situated in rundown industrial areas. Whilst more recently this may have changed, such premises will still be encountered. Irrespective of the age of the premises, the potentially corrosive atmospheres generated can have a serious impact on the condition of the property and its services, resulting in the need for enhanced maintenance regimes to be in place.

Standards of management and risk awareness in the plating industry will vary considerably, ranging from modern, prosperous, well managed facilities incorporating automatic tank lines, to those that are struggling to survive on basic equipment and where little attention may be given to fire safety.



RC 45 is made up of the following sections:

  • Introduction

  • Potential Fire Hazards

  • Recommendations, sectioned between:


1. Construction/Location

2. Process Heating and Electrical Installations

3. Fire Protection

4. Fire Safety Management

5. General Recommendations

The document concludes with an extensive fire safety checklist which Consultants are encouraged to employ on site as required.



Experience has shown that one of the main causes of fires involving plating processes relate to the use of electric immersion heaters in plastic, or plastic lined plating tanks. In these circumstances, failure of temperature controls and subsequent over heating can cause increased vaporisation of the liquid in the tank to the extent that the heating element becomes exposed. If the liquid level drops below the heating element, the liquid will begin to cool causing a continuous “on” signal to the heating element control.

This further accelerates the overheating, which can result in the tank igniting and the subsequent fire spread to associated plastic extraction hoods, ducting and related equipment. The same result can occur from a simple leakage or the removal of large components from within the tank.

Attention is therefore drawn to the Section 2 of the Recommendations in RC45 and, in particular, to those items dealing with the selection and installation of heaters, and the provision of suitable temperature controls, liquid level controls, etc. Ideally, consideration should be given to replacing electric immersion heaters with other safer forms of heating such as indirect heating using heat exchangers, although in many cases this will not be feasible for reason of cost and other factors. Reference should also be made to the need for routine inspection and maintenance of all tanks and heating equipment (Recommendations 4.6 – 4.8) 

Fires in plating risks caused by general electrical faults are common owing to the humid and corrosive atmosphere and the detrimental effect that this has on the electrical installation. Preventative maintenance of the electrical installation is paramount, comprising a programme of routine checks, formal periodic inspection and testing, and thermographic testing as appropriate. The frequency of periodic inspection and testing should be determined by a risk assessment; in many cases this is likely to be more frequent than that recommended for general industrial premises.

One further key consideration relates to the need for premises in which electroplating is carried out to be assessed in compliance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002 (Technical Bulletin 21 refers).

Whilst it is rare for plating processes to be run unattended overnight, the time length of process can be such that enquiries into this aspect must always be made and risks assessed accordingly.

TG05: The Electroplating Industry

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