THE BENEFITS OF FIRE INVESTIGATION: LESS FIRE DAMAGE + A SAFER WORKPLACE

MARI LEHTIMÄKI

Our customer, a material sorting and recycling company, was concerned about recurring fires and their potential dangers.

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Our customer, a material sorting and recycling company, was concerned about recurring fires and their potential dangers. Insurance costs had risen and the fires were causing repeated interruptions to operations. The problem was resolved through a targeted audit and the client’s cycle of financial damage was over. How did it all happen?

The Problem of Recurring Interruptions to Operations

For our client, the fire was not just a one-off major incident, but an ongoing series of smaller fires. Even smaller fires caused repeated interruptions to operations, resulting in reduced productivity. Insurance costs went up. The company had compiled its own accident and investigation statistics on fire incidents. Despite this, fires continued to occur and the company’s own resources were not sufficient to find a solution. The client contacted us for help: the whole operations were at risk.

We looked into the company’s operations and analysed the operator’s own statistics on accidents. We compiled the results of the investigation and found irregularities. We carried out targeted safety audits at specific sites and discussed with the operator and employees. Certain aspects of the operations came to the fore. We combined the data we obtained with our knowledge of fires. We gained an insight into the chain of events leading up to the fires, and we also found out what were the steps in the process that were causing problems. Could we find a safer way to do the steps that preceded the fire events? Would this reduce the number of fires??

Solution to the Problem

It soon became clear that the problem consisted of many different elements. We started to develop a general safety culture by providing concrete suggestions for alternative approaches for work activities that pose a fire risk. Then the change in safety culture and operations took place from within the company. We played an advisory role: we helped the client to see the cause and effect of the fire investigation and the potential hazards of the activity. Together we developed safer working practices, helping the client to become an even safer workplace and company. The effectiveness of the measures was closely monitored and new problems were addressed immediately.

Longer-term monitoring showed a significant reduction in the number of fires and a decrease in the damage caused by interruptions. Insurance costs did not increase — on the contrary, the insurance company reduced its premiums as a result of the measures implemented and the improved safety culture. Our client later told us, “After the fire safety audits, fire safety has taken a big step forward in terms of numbers. The audits have given us significant areas for improvement and we have also gained financial benefits from the work, as direct losses from fires have been minimal.”

Targeted Audits to Get to the Root of Problems

A targeted audit takes into account the client’s initial problem and the specific objective to solve it. This approach is also cost-effective because it does not require auditing of all aspects. We are able to get close to the customer and get close to the individual problem-solving. The development of a safety culture becomes an internal activity for the customer, and we are involved in its development.

Targeted auditing is a process where problem solving may require reforming many operations and observing their synergies. The practical actions of the company are shaped through the reconciliation of customer needs and good safety performance. A targeted audit produces clear reports with identified guidelines and recommendations for action. We help the client to understand the impact and benefits of different measures.

Examining the Safety Culture Can Reveal Hidden Problems

Audits allow us to get up close and personal with issues that the customer has not yet even realised are a problem. In addition to solving the problem, this allows us to help prevent damage that has not yet occurred. Fires can be linked to environmental pollution, so preventing fires is also about protecting the company’s environmental image. Developing a safety culture in the company will reduce interruptions and improve safety at work. The development of a safety culture does not only mean preventing fires, but a mindset of preventing all accidents. A safe working environment aims at continuity of operations, productivity and a safe working environment.

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About the author

Mari Lehtimäki
Mari Lehtimäki has worked in the safety and security industry for more than 20 years and has been a fire safety expert for the last seven years.

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