Minimising fire risks at the planning stage

If's risk engineers give credit to Wipak for the opportunity of being involved in the plant planning process from the very beginning.

Packaging plays a key role in many sectors, including the foodstuff production chain, preventing foodstuff degradation and, thereby, forestalling the generation of much more harmful waste – catering waste.

Packaging protects the product during transport, storage and retail sale. It also preserves the product fit for use. Stringent requirements govern cleanliness and hygiene. Applied to foodstuffs, multilayer film materials produced by Wipak and Winpak enable a  reduction in the amount of food additives used to preserve food for a longer time.

Wipak and Winpak place a premium on quality and risk management, a fact that is clearly evident in the fire safety of the new production facilities in Poland and China “We have put in place the latest technology at our plants. This will protect the personnel and property against loss caused by accidents, ensuring continued operation in a sector that
is extremely vulnerable to smoke and impurities,” comments risk engineer Ari Ahonen. He was involved from the very beginning in the planning process of the fire safety at the plant in Poland, completed in late 2013.

Engage risk engineers at the earliest possible opportunity

Engaging If’s risk engineers in the planning process at the earliest possible opportunity made also economic sense, because installing automatic extinguishing equipment after the facility is completed would be expensive and difficult.

“The installation of piping and fire detectors as well as the division of the production premises into fire compartments is significantly easier and less expensive if such aspects are addressed right at the planning stage,” remarks Håkan Edoff, emphasising this point. He was involved in the planning of fire safety at Wipak’s packaging facility in China, completed in 2014.

In addition to China and Poland, Wipak has production plants in Finland, Germany, France, Holland, UK, Spain and Italy. Winpak has facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

According to Petri Leskinen, Treasurer at the Wihuri Group, which owns Wipak, collaboration with If’s risk management has been a very positive experience. “We are satisfied with the services offered by If’s risk management and with the professional competence of their risk engineers. With regard to plant projects
like this, beginning collaboration as early early as possible is extremely fruitful, both from the viewpoint of the enterprise and the insurance company,” he says.

Risk management provides excellent support

Risk management provides excellent support to quality work, which is vital in the production of medical packaging. “Since we are engaged in international competition, investments in this area constitute part of the development of our operations and, through this, part of the development of our competitiveness,” comments Leskinen.

“In the different phases of our production, we must follow the quality requirement set by the health care system and the foodstuff and medical industries, as well as by external auditing organisations extremely closely,” Leskinen says.

The manufacturing process of packaging material uses flammable liquids when patterns are printed in  different colours, and the packaging material is formed under extreme heat. “Raw materials for plastics will melt at temperatures of 200 to 250 degrees Centigrade.

While in the refinement processes temperatures remain at a lower level, they may still be as high as 100 degrees,” Ahonen comments.

Make fires safety systems as flawless as possible

In collaboration with If’s risk engineers, Wipak’s and Winpak’s experts have explored means by which the fire safety systems of production facilities can be made as flawless as possible. Despite ongoing changes in production technology, the principles of fire protection remain unchanged.

“Effective fire protection methods do exist. Structural fire prevention as well as a fire alarm system and an automatic extinguishing system form the foundation for all of this. Wipak was prepared to fully address these considerations, even though the regulations issued by the Polish and Chinese authorities did not require such solutions,” Ahonen and Edoff say.

“The primary element in fire safety is an automatic extinguishing system, or sprinkler, designed and installed in accordance with the rules. It must be coupled to a fire alarm system that detects the generation of combustion gases at a very early stage,” Ahonen states.

“A well-designed and properly installed sprinkler system will not allow the fire to spread, and will contain or extinguish it where it breaks out."

Prevent the fire and combustion gases from spreading

At Wipak's new plant in Poland, every effort has been made to take all relevant factors into consideration. If there is an unexpected interruption in the plant’s power supply and the electric sprinkler pump stops functioning, an automatic diesel pump will provide the sprinkler system with a sufficient amount of water.

The large 680 cubic metre water tank of the automatic extinguishing system and the pumping station are located in a separate building. A water tank is sufficiently large with efficient pumps enabling the expansion of the extinguishing system if the production facilities need to be expanded.

In addition to the sprinkler extinguishing system, the storage and handling premises for flammable liquids have been protected using a carbon dioxide extinguishing system, and the server room has been equipped with a FM 200 gas extinguishing system.

A major goal in fire protection is to prevent the fire and combustion gases from spreading beyond the fire compartment. The key passive protection method lies in dividing a building into smaller parts by means of structures forming fire compartments. In addition to this, the technical facilities such as the premises for
electric equipment and flammable liquids comprise their own fire compartments.

Building material play a crucial role

Fire doors must provide the same level of fire safety as the wall in which they are installed. They have also been equipped with a mechanism that automatically closes the doors in the event of a fire alarm.

The cable and pipe penetrations between the various compartments have been sealed in a proper manner. The compatibility of the smoke ventilation system with the sprinkler system has been ensured.

Building materials play a crucial role in fire protection. Wipak’s new production plant in Poland has a concrete construction, rendering it resistant to the spread of fire. The inner part of the wall structures
that insulates temperature is made of mineral wool, making it considerably safer from the viewpoint of fire safety than wall structures constructed using a Styrofoam insulation.

By taking account of fire safety from the planning stage onwards, major accidents can be prevented and an official permission to continue operations from authorities can be ensured in situations where a fire has damaged only a small section of a production facility.

In addition to cutting-edge technology, the personnel play a key role. The provision of regular training for motivated and skilled personnel in handling first-aid fire extinguishing equipment and similar technology is an important part of Wipak’s and Winpak’s fire safety system.

Article by

Harry Nordqvist

Original article was published in Risk Consulting Magazine 2/2015.