While welcoming any measures that improve safety within a warehouse or distribution centre building, the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) – the trade body which represents the interests of some 700 third party logistics specialists – has warned against the mandatory introduction of sprinkler systems within all warehouse facilities.
At present only warehouses over 20,000 square metres in size legally need to have sprinklers fitted but the Business Sprinkler Alliance (a collection of trade bodies and other groups) has recently launched a campaign for the current law to be reviewed.
"There have long been demands for the mandatory installation of sprinkler devices within all new warehouses and, in some cases, for warehouse operators to be compelled to add them to existing facilities," says Roger Williams, chief executive officer of UKWA.
"Among the third party warehousing and logistics industry which UKWA represents, the words ‘sprinklers in warehouses’ usually raise eyebrows and any talk of ‘retrospective fitting of sprinklers in warehouses’ is guaranteed to get warehouse operators’ blood pressure creeping up," he adds.
He continues: "Given the Fire Service’s policy is to allow warehouse fires to extinguish naturally if the blaze does not present a threat to human life, it seems reasonable to expect more emphasis to be placed on preventing the escalation of a fire and suppression systems look certain to be used more widely.
"That said, there are a number of practical problems that prevent the use of sprinklers in some types of warehouse and in some localities, so while UKWA welcomes any steps that seek to add protection to property and people, we will be doing our best to engage with the Business Sprinkler Alliance and other interested parties to ensure that any proposed changes to existing regulations are sensible, practical and applied with a light hand."