External Storage of Combustible Materials

01 August 2023

External storage is a feature in a wide range of businesses and the most commonly encountered combustible items stored externally are pallets (timber or plastic) and waste bins, skips and compactors.

Externally stored goods are at risk of ignition, either through accidental or deliberate acts, including: 

  • Malicious ignition by vandals or arsonists.

  • Ignition by discarded smoking materials, heat and sparks.

  • Spontaneous combustion of oil contaminated waste and other susceptible materials.

  • The risk of fire spread from adjacent buildings, plant and vehicles.

Whilst the loss of a few pallets or contents of a waste skip is unlikely to be too significant, should the fire spread to buildings or goods, the loss could be substantial.
Even if the fire does not spread, smoke may cause significant damage with subsequent interruption to the business, particularly where stocks are susceptible to contamination, such as foodstuffs, clothing, sensitive equipment / components etc.



What risk control measures should be implemented?
  • Prohibit smoking or site external smoking shelters in suitable positions away from property and with appropriate smoking waste receptacles provided.
  • Prohibit burning of waste.
  • Adequate control of contractors – Use of Hot Work permits etc.
  • Locating storage at a sufficient distance from buildings.
  • Securing lids on skips and waste containers
  • Oily/greasy or impregnated waste, rags or wipes put into secured metal lidded bins.
  • Adequate storage conditions for gases such as secured cages or enclosures, away from potential ignition sources, with good ventilation.
  • The presence of monitored CCTV or on-site guards can help in the early discovery and reporting of a fire.
  • Keeping external storage to a minimum will limit fuel for a fire.
  • Good housekeeping practices for external storage areas, including maintaining clear spaces between stored goods and regular removal of waste packaging and other loose combustible materials
How far should combustible materials be kept from buildings?
The simple response to this is as far as reasonably practical, but as a general rule such materials should be kept at least 5 metres from the building.
Where the trade (or nearby trades) is a high fire risk in nature, increased storage distances will be required.
WTJ Insurance

Landmark House, 556 Leeds Road,
Outwood, Wakefield, WF1 2DX

Call: 01924 871 111