Electrical Fires at nurseriesA fire can cause devastating losses to any business, and nurseries are not immune. In fact, there are many fire hazards inherent at a nursery that present tremendous risk. Here we explore the top three most common causes of nursery fires.

1. Electrical problems

Far and away, the most common cause of fires at nurseries, according to Zachery Bruce, safety services manager for horticultural insurer Hortica, results from an electrical issue. In fact, Hortica’s loss experience statistics show that the majority of fires insured with Hortica were the result of poor electrical maintenance or poor installation of electrical systems throughout a facility. “We also run into a lot of nurseries that have old, outdated electrical wiring and systems still in use,” Bruce states.

“A lot of nurseries or growers have a handyman on staff who has some knowledge of electrical and thus handles the electrical, but they are not by any means a licensed electrician,” he explains. “So you have someone who doesn’t really know how to do it, but can do it. That a lot of times can lead to fires or electrical problems.”

Another issue, he adds, is that many nurseries have an ag exemption from state and county electrical regulations. From a code enforcement standpoint, that means they are not subject to the same enforcement codes as, say, a retail garden center.

“So nurseries don’t have to have the same caliber of wiring throughout the facility,” Bruce says. “That is where we see the majority of our fires, electrical in nature.”

To prevent such fires, Bruce’s first recommendation is to have someone who is qualified and is a licensed electrician do the electrical work at your nursery. The other important thing is to have your electrical system inspected and maintained just like you would any piece of equipment on the property.

“Over time, wires can degrade, breakers can go bad and things can get dirty,” he explains. “So it’s important to have a maintenance program in place for the electrical system throughout the property.”

2. “Hot work”

Nursery Hot Work Fire extinguishers should be located throughout the facility, including areas where you may be doing welding, cutting or grinding and creating sparks, also called “hot work.”

“We have seen a lot of big fires result from hot work,” Bruce says.

It’s also a good idea to have fire extinguishers in areas where there are flammable/combustible materials being stored, open flames or boilers.

“Make sure your employees know how to use fire extinguishers safely and when to use them,” he says. “The last thing you want in a fire is someone to grab an extinguisher that’s not going to put out the fire and put their life at risk.”

Bruce adds that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to have a Hot Work Program and provide training for employees who may be expected to use a fire extinguisher.

Improper storage3. Improper storage of flammable materials

Bruce also recommends knowing what your flammable materials are and making sure to store them in a safe area, whether that’s a fireproof cabinet or area that does not contain any ignition sources. Flammable materials should never be stored in a boiler room or in an area where welding, cutting or brazing may occur.

“It’s not a good idea to store your flammable liquids in an area where they could be exposed to flame or something that could ignite the vapors from flammable materials on a property,” he states.

Bruce suggests implementing a fire prevention plan where personnel go around the property and identify any potential fire hazards and how to mitigate them.

More so than insuring equipment, it’s important to be insured against fire loss. Bruce says to make sure your buildings are insured — maybe not every single one, but at least the main buildings.

“It’s also important to make sure you understand what structures are covered under your policy,” he says.

When looking for an insurer, it’s important to find a company that doesn’t just want to sell you insurance but will do inspections of your property and help with training. Plus, it helps if that company understands your particular business.

“I’ve run into a number of insureds who say they really appreciate the knowledge that someone has who specializes in their business and understands the business and the exposures that another company might not understand,” says Bruce.

Nursery Know-How: Fire Safety Checklist

  • Employ a licensed electrician to install and maintain your system.
  • Implement — and then follow — a regular maintenance program for electrical systems.
  • Install fire extinguishers in strategic places — and make sure your employees are trained in how to use them safely.
  • Store all flammables in secured, fireproof places, away from possible contact with sparks or other ignition sources.
  • Develop and implement a fire-prevention plan, and make sure your employees are involved.

This document is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should act on the information contained in this document without advice from a local professional with relevant expertise.  77-46 24001848 5/10/17

This content is sponsored by Hortica. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the American Nurseryman editorial team.