Storing Cellular Plastics to reduce fire risks

The safest storage area for cellular plastics (CP) is in a detached single-storey building, located away from fire escape routes and assembly points.

If the CP store is in an occupied building then:

  • it should be separated from occupied parts of the building
  • a partition giving at least half an hour fire resisting separation should be provided
  • doors through the partition should be self-closing and give a minimum of 30 minutes fire resistance
  • fire doors held open by fusible links are not recommended as they don't close quickly enough to prevent smoke spread.

If the CP store is in a multi-occupancy building then whenever possible it should not be below any occupied floor. Stores below occupied floors may not give enough time to evacuate the building before the fire blocks escape routes. Also smoke and fire can spread rapidly from the stores to the upper floors.

If storage below occupied floors is unavoidable then an automatic fire-detection system linked to the fire alarm should be installed in the store to give early warning of fire. The installation of an automatic sprinkler system should also be considered.

When storing CP the following should be considered:

  • Storage area segregation – processing and storage areas should be separate. There are more likely to be ignition sources in processing areas so keeping bulk supplies away the risk is minimised.
  • Positioning storage areas – they should be positioned to minimise heat, smoke and the spread of fire to occupied areas.
  • Access through storage areas – access should be minimised and escape through a foam storage area should not be the only means of escape.
  • Temporary storage – if CP is being stored awaiting disposal or use (eg insulation waiting to be installed in buildings) then precautions should still be taken. This may include storing CP outside, in freight containers or a designated room away from fire exits etc.
  • Finished product storage – finished products may have a lower fire risk as they are covered. However, to reduce risks easily ignitable materials should be kept away.
  • New buildings/significant refurbishments – it is easier to reduce CP fire risks through building design eg fire resistant structures. Building regulations would apply so contact your local authority (who enforce the building regulations) or Fire Officer for more advice.
  • Highly flammable (HF) products – storage areas can be used for other HF solids eg polyester wadding but HF liquids eg cleaning solvents should not be stored here.

Positioning of stock in storerooms

The following arrangements should be followed so far as practicable:

  • stacks of loose blocks should be stable (racking can be used for cut pieces)
  • access routes round stacks should be more than 800 mm wide
  • stacks should be arranged to avoid creating dead-end gangways with only one direction of escape
  • there should be a minimum of 1 m between stack tops and ceilings, smoke detectors, or light fittings
  • stacks should not be positioned directly below incandescent lights unless the bulbs are protected
  • stacks should not be placed close up against a wall or pillar that supports steam pipes or electrical services

it is recommended that scrap material brought into the store in bins or bales is kept in a special area marked out and set aside for the purpose.

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Updated 2023-05-02