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Tips for minimising fire risk on poultry farms

free-range hens indoors

A FIRE on a poultry farm can have a devastating impact, threatening both birds and staff as well as having a potentially huge impact on a farming business.

In 2019 the cost of all farm fires reported to NFU Mutual reached a five-year high of £49million.

See also: Poultry.Network launches face-to-face conference on 16 September 2021 

Electrical faults accounted for over half the total last year – £25 million – followed by arson which rose by 40% to £9million.  

Fires on poultry farms are commonly caused by electrical faults, fire in machinery, heaters/brooders, heat treatment of poultry floors and arson.

Here, Robin Till of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ltd (RMS), outlines key areas that poultry producers should think about when developing a plan for preventing farm fires.

Mr Till also recommends asking the local fire & rescue service to the farm. 

“We also recommend inviting the local Fire & Rescue Service to visit the farm to assess water sources and familiarise themselves with the layout and the location of poultry buildings.”

Extraction systems and electricals

Under NFU Mutual’s Poultry Farm Warranty, there is a requirement for a Poultry Farm Electrical Checklist to be carried out on buildings containing poultry, other birds and eggs at least every 16 months, with any defects being remedied promptly by a qualified electrician. 

All extraction systems, including flues, extraction motors, fans and the entire length of any associated ducting, are also subject to a maintenance programme that includes a thorough clean at least once every 16 months, or more regularly if required, by a competent person. 

It’s also important to keep records of electrical checklists, and all maintenance and cleaning carried out on extraction systems.

Floor Burner Sanitising Equipment:

Strict controls must be implemented, and equipment warranties should be followed carefully when using floor burner sanitiser equipment:

  • Complete a thorough inspection of the area where the work is to be carried out to ensure that there are no combustible materials or exposed combustible elements of the building which could be ignited by direct or conducted heat
  • Ensure the equipment is of proprietary manufacture and operated by a competent employee or contractor and is

-maintained and serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions 

 -attended at all times while alight or in operating mode 

 – extinguished immediately after use

  • Provide suitable and well-maintained fire-fighting equipment
  • Where the work involves the use of gas cylinders, keep those not required for immediate use outside the building in which the work is taking place
  • Monitor of the area 30 minutes after completion

Managing Contractors

Flock turnover can be a hectic period with numerous contractors on site all at the same time. 

Managing contractors and their activities is essential to ensure that incidents do not arise, e.g. new bedding be laid at the same time that the brooder heaters are being serviced. 

Introduce permit to work systems, including hot work permits, and ensure activity is carried out in safe, controlled conditions.

Gas Fired Brooder Heaters

An indirect form of heating is a better option but where gas fired brooder heaters are used, then fit them with a safety chain suspended from a separate strong point, and inspect the chain when flocks are turned over.

Smoking

Suitable smoking areas should be provided away from buildings and combustible storage, with suitable receptacles for extinguished cigarettes.

Storage of combustibles:

Try to store combustibles, such as bedding material, at least 10m from any other buildings, and preferably within an enclosed/secure store, and not against the poultry buildings.

Farm Fire Prevention tips:

  • Get electrical systems regularly inspected by a competent electrician and carry out regular ventilation maintenance
  • Don’t overload electrical systems – and avoid using multigang connectors
  • Maintain machinery and production line equipment – eliminating sources of friction and keeping them free from dust
  • Ensure there are sufficient fire extinguishers for the size of buildings and that they are inspected regularly to ensure they are in the right location and condition
  • Ensure staff and adult family members know the location of fire extinguishers and how to use them
  • Use CCTV cameras along with warning signs to deter arsonists
  • Put in place an evacuation plan for staff
  • Store petrol, diesel, and other fuels in secure areas
  • Pre-plan hot works such as welding in clear areas
  • Ensure you have safe, designated smoking areas
  • Ensure you can direct emergency services to the exact location of fires e.g. download the what3words app which pinpoints specific 3m x 3m locations
  • Ask your local Fire and Rescue service to visit to check water supplies and access routes

If a fire breaks out:

  • Make sure everyone evacuates the immediate area and remains in a safe location
  • Call the Fire and Rescue Service without delay
  • If possible, send someone to the farm entrance to direct the Fire and Rescue Service to the fire