Metal recyclers push for ‘sector-specific’ fire guidance

The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has announced that it is to work with the Environment Agency to develop sector-specific guidance on the prevention of fires at scrap metal sites.

Work on the guidance is to begin next month (February) and follows ‘intensive conversations’ between the Agency and the BMRA on the issue, according to the Association.

Storage of scrap metal is one of the elements likely to be addressed in guidance

Waste operators are required to produce Fire Prevention Plans (FPPs) – which are approved by the Environment Agency – in order to minimise the likelihood of fires breaking out at sites.

Guidance on the development of the FPPs was first issued in March 2015 – and updated in July 2016 – setting out a number of steps that waste site operators must follow to have an FPP approved. This includes requirements on the storage and separation distances between material stacks.

The updated guidance also states that waste operators must not store waste for longer than six months, stack waste no higher than four metres, and keep a separation distance of six metres between stacks.

Operators in some sectors including wood and tyre recycling have expressed concern over the conditions set out in the FPP guidance, and the potential impact on businesses – despite the Agency noting that there is room for some ‘flexibility’ where criteria may be difficult to meet.


As reported by last month, the Agency has already agreed to work with the Wood Recyclers’ Association to develop a template for the drafting of fire plans in the wood sector (see story). This came ahead of the announcement that it would work with the metals sector on guidance.

A recent fire at a scrap metal site in Brentford, which is run by EMR. Pciture: NPAS
A fire at a EMR’s metal recycling site in Brentford last week. Picture: NPAS

In a statement, the BMRA said: “Whilst BMRA welcomes the publication of the Environment Agency’s revised fire prevention plan (FPP) guidance, there remain a number of key aspects that present particular challenges for the sector. These include: maximum stockpile dimensions; separation distances between stockpiles and the site boundary; associated space constraints and; fire water storage.

“After a summer-long period of engagement, BMRA had a meeting with senior Agency advisors in late 2016 to explore the development of sector-specific guidance. At that meeting the Agency credited BMRA for taking an early lead on addressing the concerns of particular sectors of the waste industry in this way.

“Supplementary guidance produced for the metals recycling sector will complement and clarify aspects of the Agency’s guidance, in particular the issues outlined above. This guidance will be developed and published by BMRA, with the Agency providing technical advice and expertise throughout its drafting.”

BMRA is to convene a meeting in February to agree to the scope of the guidance, with an aim to publish a document for use by early summer.

Agreement on FPP guidance is seen as crucial ahead of changes to the way that plans are assessed. The EA currently has an assessment panel reviewing all FPPs which are submitted for approval, but this is to be phased out in 2017 when regional teams have been fully trained to carry out assessments for operators in their area.

The EA is also working with the Chief Fire Officers Association and the CIWM (Chartered Institutes of Waste Management) on training packages for the industry.


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