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Fire conference highlights stakeholder differences

Last week’s Fire Prevention and Control in the Waste and Recycling Industry Conference served to highlight the differences of opinion between the many stakeholders involved in preventing fires in the waste and recycling sector.

Wiser Environment’s Andrew Lake spoke at the Conference organised by Let’s Recycle and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) in London on Wednesday 7th November 2018. Andrew talked about the challenges facing operators trying to balance the need for practical and cost effective ways to minimise their risk of fire whilst ensuring that fire prevention plans are approved by the EA. Judging by the breadth of views expressed by the speakers those challenges aren’t going to disappear any time soon.

Julia Turner, Executive Director of the Wood Recyclers Association talked about the issues faced by the wood recycling sector in light of ‘unworkable’ guidance from the EA. She explained how the WRA has worked with the EA to produce sector-specific guidance which is due out later this year.

Andrew says: “Wood recyclers face unique challenges. The new guidance aims to overcome many of the concerns that Wiser Environment discussed in our MRW article on the subject this summer including seasonality and stack size.”

The biggest area of concern for operators though appears to come from the insurance industry. Mark Allen, Director of insurer Willis Tower Watson suggested that insurers were reluctant to insure against fire in the waste sector and that stricter fire prevention plan requirements were necessary to reduce the risks such as minimum levels of fire suppression systems.

Andrew says: “Whilst the insurance industry would like to see greater firefighting equipment on site, this is not always affordable or practical for smaller operators, particularly when retro-fitting or starting up. Whilst we are all keen to minimise the risk of fire on waste and recycling sites, there needs to be a balance. Smaller operators should not be driven out of or prevented from entering the waste industry because of this. There needs to be a greater understanding from the insurers about the benefits of a well-controlled supply chain and increased throughput with reduced storage times aiding the prevention of fires on site.”

Gill Weeks OBE, Board Member of the Environment Agency talked about the third iteration of the regulator’s fire prevention plan guidance which offers greater flexibility and accepts that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in practice.

Andrew says: “The conference provided a great opportunity for key stakeholders to come together and share their views and highlight their particular concerns and issues. Fundamentally, we all agree about the need to work together to reduce the risk of fire in the waste and recycling sector. Hopefully we managed to give a voice to the smaller operators who are a vital part of the waste industry and who need to be able to implement workable fire prevention plans”.

Read more about the conference on Let’s Recycle.

Find out more about Wiser Environment’s fire prevention plan services.